National Marine Sanctuary Program, federally owned marine and Great Lakes reserves, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The program consists of 13 marine sanctuaries totaling over 18,000 sq mi (46,632 sq km) in eight states and American Samoa. Four of the areas are on the California coast, including the largest, at Monterey Bay. The Florida Keys and Hawaii also have large sanctuaries. Founded in 1972, the program was set up to protect those marine and Great Lakes areas of special significance, such as the only barrier reef in the United States, which is in the Florida Keys. The first sanctuary, encompassing the sunken remains of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor (see Monitor and Merrimack), off the coast of North Carolina, was designated in 1975. Education and research are important aspects of the program; oil drilling and salvaging are prohibited in the sanctuaries.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, also established in 1972 and managed by NOAA, has 25 reserves covering more than 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) in 17 states and Puerto Rico. The reserves are representative of the various regions and estuarine types found in the United States and its territories.