New York state's first National Marine Sanctuary announced

Today, during the opening ceremony of the Capitol Hill Ocean Week, NOAA announced that it is designating a 1,722-square-mile area in eastern Lake Ontario as America's 16th National Marine Sanctuary.

Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by NOAA

Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary, adjacent to New York’s Jefferson, Oswego, Cayuga and Wayne counties, will celebrate the region’s maritime cultural history and provide new opportunities for research, education, recreation and maritime heritage-related tourism in local coastal communities and the broader Great Lakes region.

The sanctuary designation advances President Biden’s America the Beautiful Initiative, which supports locally-led collaborative conservation efforts across the country for the benefit of all Americans and sets a national goal of protecting, conserving or restoring at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. With more than 41 million acres already conserved, President Biden is on track to conserve more lands and waters than any president in history.

“The designation of this sanctuary is a milestone for NOAA, New York and the nation,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad during the opening statement of the Capitol Hill Ocean Week. “Establishing a national marine sanctuary in the cold fresh waters of eastern Lake Ontario opens the door to world-class research and education initiatives, and provides opportunities to support and enhance tourism and the local economy within one of the most historically significant regions in the Great Lakes.”

Eastern Lake Ontario’s waters and coast tells the story of America’s diverse history and heritage, from early Indigenous settlements to today. The area includes transportation and trade routes for Indigenous Peoples and early European explorers, and locations of military conflicts and maritime innovation. Eastern Lake Ontario supported the growth of the young American republic and the nation’s industrial core.

The new sanctuary features a collection of 41 known shipwrecks and one known submerged aircraft, among the best preserved in the world, discovered over decades by recreational scuba divers and shipwreck explorers. The shipwrecks, such as St. Peter, a three-masted schooner that was loaded with coal when it was lost in a storm in 1898, embody more than two centuries of the nation’s maritime history.

NOAA will use its expertise to further locate, research and monitor these and other maritime cultural resources. NOAA will also focus on education and outreach through partnerships with Indigenous governments, local partners and institutions.

“From sacred places and cultural practices to lighthouses and historic shipwrecks, this region’s maritime cultural legacy provides meaning and a sense of place to countless generations,” said Nicole R. LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “NOAA looks forward to working with a wide range of partners to learn, share and celebrate the remarkable history of the eastern Lake Ontario region.”

In January 2017, the adjacent counties and the City of Oswego, with support from the Governor of New York, submitted a sanctuary nomination for the area to NOAA. A diverse group of governments and non-governmental organisations, including the Onondaga Nation, regional and local units of government, historical societies, museums, recreation, conservation, tourism and education groups, endorsed the nomination.

“NOAA acknowledges and respects that eastern Lake Ontario is of cultural, spiritual and historical significance to the Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, who have been stewards of their homelands for thousands of years and continue to care for these lands and waters,” said John Armor, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “We are dedicated to building equitable partnerships with Indigenous Peoples in the stewardship of these waters.”

NOAA and the state of New York will co-manage the sanctuary, the third to be designated in the Great Lakes. The designation will take effect following 45 days of continuous session of the U.S. Congress after publication of this action in the Federal Register.

“The designation of the Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary will ensure long-term protection and proper management of our historic shipwrecks and maritime heritage sites in eastern Lake Ontario, off the coast of Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga, and Wayne counties. This important designation will not only safeguard these valuable historic sites but also promote educational opportunities and support tourism in our community. The community is eager to have the necessary resources to protect these sites and continue educating future generations about our region’s rich maritime history,” added Congresswoman Tenney.


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Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by NOAA

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