Photograph by Tamara Thomsen, Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program, Wisconsin Historical Society
Photograph by Tamara Thomsen, Maritime Preservation and Archaeology Program, Wisconsin Historical Society

Choose Your Own Marine Sanctuary

Fancy a dive? The public can now nominate important aquatic areas for protection.

This story appears in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.

For the first time, you can suggest areas in U.S. waters for consideration as new marine sanctuaries. In the past, government entities nominated sites such as California’s Channel Islands and the Florida Keys. Now the Obama Administration has opened the process to the public.

Proposed areas must have significant biological or historical value, says Matt Brookhart, acting deputy director for National Marine Sanctuaries at NOAA, the agency that oversees the process. Two of the most recent active sanctuary proposals would protect historic shipwrecks, in Lake Michigan off southeastern Wisconsin (above) and in the Potomac River in Maryland.

The input from the public “has been great,” says Brookhart. “We are doing this for future generations.”

To nominate a site, visit NOAA online.