Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary: the Gulf of Maine's Underwater National Park

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 by Savannah

A school of cod swim near a shipwreck in the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary (Image source: Matthew Lawrence, NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary)
A school of cod swim near a shipwreck in the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary (Image source: Matthew Lawrence, NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary)Have you ever been to Acadia National Park? Or other cool parks around the country? I love being outdoors in places like these. But did you know we have underwater national parks in the United States, too?! We don't call them parks, though; they're called National Marine Sanctuaries, and there are 13 of them in and around the United States.  

The Gulf of Maine is home to the only sanctuary on the East Coast, called the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary. It's an area about the size of Rhode Island that's located off the coast of Massachusetts, and it includes Stellwagen Bank and part of Jeffrey's Ledge. 


Stellwagen
 National Marine Sanctuary was named after Henry Stellwagen, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who was the first one to map the whole area while on aassignment from the Coast Guard in 1854 to look for good places to put lighthouses. (The Sanctuary was later renamed the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen NMS to honor the Massachusetts congressman that fought to get the area designated as a sanctuary.Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary includes important fishing grounds, especially for groundfish species like cod, and is also a popular feeding area for humpback whales and other marine mammals. Interestingly, in 2016 USA Today voted Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary the #1 place to see aquatic life in the United States.

Stacked saucers and tea cups in the shipreck of the Portland (Credit: NOAA/SBNMS, NURC-UConn, and the Science Channel)Boats and fishing are both allowed in the Sanctuary, but there are special regulations to prevent activities like mining and transferring oil in order to protect the sanctuary from harm. Interestingly, Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary is also home to many shipwrecks, including a ferry called the Portland that sank there in 1898. The Portland has been called "the Titanic of New England."  

Marine sanctuaries play an important role in protecting America's natural and cultural marine resources. For more information about Stellwagen and the rest of the National Marine Sanctuary system, check out the NOAA websites listed below!


Sources: 

NOAA: https://stellwagen.noaa.govhttps://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/ 

CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2002/US/08/29/historic.shipwreck/ 

Thumbnail photo credit: Matthew Lawrence, SBNMS

 



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