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National Marine Sanctuaries Act

Authorizing Statutes

16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.

This is the principal statute governing the designation and management of protected marine areas of special significance. The statute requires NOAA to designate National Marine Sanctuaries in accordance with specific guidelines and to develop and review management plans for these sites. It provides for the continuation of existing leases, licenses and other established rights in sanctuary areas, and for the development of research and education programs. The statute also prohibits destruction, injury or loss of sanctuary resources, and establishes liability for response costs and natural resource damages for injury to these resources. The NMSA was formerly referred to as Title III of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972.

Specific Natural Resource Trustee Authorities:

Section 1432 

  • defines natural resource damages to include—
    • the cost of replacing, restoring, or acquiring the equivalent of a sanctuary resource
    • the value of the lost use of the resource pending its restoration
    • the cost of damage assessments, and
    • reasonable costs of monitoring

Section 1443 

  • establishes liability for destruction, loss of or injuries to sanctuary resources
  • authorizes the pursuit of civil actions for response costs and damages
  • requires that recovered response costs and damages be used—
    • to finance response actions and damage assessments
    • to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of the inju