Encyclopedic Entry

Fishes and corals and sponges, oh my.

Photograph by Angela Epperson, MyShot

Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument
The Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument, in northeast Hawaii, is the single largest conservation area in the United States and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. Spanning 362,073 square kilometers (139,797 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean, the monument is 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park. In fact, its larger than all U.S. national parks combined.

It's also harder to pronounce: pah-pah-HAH-noh-moh-koo-aah-kay-ah. Listen to it pronounced correctly here.

A marine sanctuary is a general type of marine protected area (MPA). An MPA is a section of the ocean where a government has placed limits on human activity. Different types of MPAs allow different types of activities, such as scientific research, recreation, or commercial fishing. In the United States, marine sanctuary and marine protected area usually mean the same thing.

Sanctuary waters may provide a secure habitat for endangered species. Sanctuaries may also protect shipwrecks and historic artifacts. They serve as outdoor classrooms for schoolchildren and laboratories for researchers who want to better understand and protect the ocean environment. Sanctuaries also protect economically important fisheries.

Marine sanctuaries often have different zones, which allow different activities. A permit system usually regulates these activities, such as fishing or recreational water sports. Only a certain number of permits are issued every year. The permits allow the MPA to prevent overfishing or pollution due to boats or other personal watercraft.

A marine sanctuarys staff also educates the public about responsible behavior. This allows the public to enjoy marine sanctuaries for recreation, tourism, and fishing in a sustainable manner.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 underwater areas protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The sanctuary protects three separate sand banks that are located 112 to 184 kilometers (70 to 115 miles) off the coasts of the U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana. These banks are actually underwater mountains called salt domes.

Salt domes formed about 190 million years ago, when the Gulf of Mexico was a shallow sea. The hot, dry climate caused the seawater to evaporate quickly, leaving a thick layer of salt on the seafloor. Eventually, the Gulf of Mexico deepened and rivers, such as the Mississippi, began to flow into it. Mud, sand, and silt were steadily deposited over the salt layers. The pressure from these denser sediments caused the salt layer to push upward. Some salt layers broke through the sediments completely, while others forced the seafloor to bulge upward in mountainous domes. Salt domes occur across the entire northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

Flower Garden Banks received its MPA status for the abundance of marine life. The domes are dotted by coral reefs, which provide a habitat for hundreds of fish, sponges, and invertebrates such as shrimp. The endangered loggerhead sea turtle lives in Flower Garden Banks.

Like most marine sanctuaries, Flower Garden Banks provides different zones for human activities. The MPA has ongoing research projects, so biologists and other scientists can monitor marine life in the area. The brightly colored coral reef ecosystems are a popular site for snorkelers and scuba divers. Commercial fishing is not allowed in the sanctuary, but sport fishing using traditional hook-and-line gear is permitted. By not allowing fishing nets, the sanctuary protects against the accidental bycatch of loggerhead sea turtles.


Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Animals

The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals is a vast marine protected area in the Mediterranean Sea. The Pelagos sanctuary reaches France, Monaco, Italy, the French island of Corsica, and the Italian island of Sardinia.

The sanctuary is a feeding area and breeding ground for a variety of marine mammals called cetaceans. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are cetaceans. Pelagos sanctuary is home to fin whales, sperm whales, Cuviers beaked whales, long-finned pilot whales, Rissos dolphins, common bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, and short-beaked common dolphins.

The Pelagos sanctuary includes busy ports such as Nice, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Genoa, Italy. The human activity surrounding these ports puts pressure on the marine environment. Pollution linked to cruise ships, fishing vessels, and offshore motorboat racing threatens the habitats and organisms in the sanctuary. This pollution increases during the summer, as tourists migrate to the sanctuarys coast, known as the Riviera.

Restrictions aim to regulate and lessen the impact of these human activities in the sanctuary. The governments of France, Monaco, and Italy have agreed to begin phasing out the release of toxic pollutants in the sanctuary. They also monitor pollution levels and fine individuals or businesses that illegally dump in sanctuary waters.

Fishing is allowed in Pelagos sanctuary. However, permits are required for both commercial and sport fishing. There are also limits on how much fish can be caught and what methods can be used. Limitations are designed to protect the sanctuarys cetacean population. Fishing limits prevent a severe reduction in fish eaten by cetaceans. Fishing methods must reduce the risk that marine mammals (mostly cetaceans and sea turtles) are accidentally caught instead of fish.

By protecting the Pelagos sanctuary from pollution and overfishing, the governments of the Riviera hope to preserve the areas environmental and economic importance.

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

abundance

Noun

large amount.

artifact

Noun

material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.

biologist

Noun

scientist who studies living organisms.

breeding ground

Noun

place where animals mate, give birth, and sometimes raise young.

bycatch

Noun

fish or any other organisms accidentally caught in fishing gear.

cetacean

Noun

type of marine mammal, such as whales and dolphins, whose body is similar to a fish.

climate

Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

Encyclopedic Entry: climate

coast

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

Encyclopedic Entry: coast

commercial fishing

Noun

industry responsible for catching and selling fish.

coral reef

Noun

rocky ocean features made up of millions of coral skeletons.

cruise ship

Noun

vessel transporting tourists on a trip.

dense

Adjective

having parts or molecules that are packed closely together.

deposit

Verb

to place or deliver an item in a different area than it originated.

dolphin

Noun

marine mammal related to the whale, but smaller and always toothed.

economic

Adjective

having to do with money.

ecosystem

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem

endangered species

Noun

organism threatened with extinction.

Encyclopedic Entry: endangered species

environment

Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

evaporate

Verb

to change from a liquid to a gas or vapor.

fine

Verb

to punish, usually by charging an economic penalty or fee.

fishery

Noun

industry or occupation of harvesting fish, either in the wild or through aquaculture.

government

Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

habitat

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

Encyclopedic Entry: habitat

hook-and-line

Adjective

traditional method of catching fish, with baited hooks at the end of lines of wire.

illegal

Adjective

forbidden by law.

invertebrate

Noun

animal without a spine.

loggerhead sea turtle

Noun

reptile native to non-polar oceans.

marine mammal

Noun

an animal that lives most of its life in the ocean but breathes air and gives birth to live young, such as whales and seals.

marine protected area (MPA)

Noun

area of the ocean where a government has placed limits on human activity.

marine sanctuary

Noun

part of the ocean protected by the government to preserve its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy it in a sustainable way.

Encyclopedic Entry: marine sanctuary

migrate

Verb

to move from one place or activity to another.

monitor

Verb

to observe and record behavior or data.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Noun

U.S. Department of Commerce agency whose mission is to "understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others, and; to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources."

ocean

Noun

large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

Encyclopedic Entry: ocean

overfish

Verb

to harvest aquatic life to the point where species become rare in the area.

permit

Noun

official, written permission to do something. Sometimes called a license.

pollution

Noun

introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

Encyclopedic Entry: pollution

porpoise

Noun

marine mammal related to dolphins.

port

Noun

place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

Encyclopedic Entry: port

public

Adjective

available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.

recreation area

Noun

specific area that allows camping, boating, fishing, diving, kayaking, picnicking, and other activities.

regulate

Verb

to determine and administer a set of rules for an activity.

research

Noun

scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

Riviera

Noun

luxury resort area along the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the southeast coast of France to the northwest coast of Italy.

salt

Noun

mineral often used as a preservative or flavoring.

salt dome

Noun

structure formed as water evaporates from a salty lake or sea. The remaining salt is buried by sediments, but eventually pierces through the rock, forming a hill.

sand bank

Noun

large underwater deposit of sand, often tall enough to reach the water's surface.

scuba

noun, adjective

(self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) portable device for breathing underwater.

sea

Noun

large part of the ocean enclosed or partly enclosed by land.

Encyclopedic Entry: sea

secure

Verb

to guarantee or make certain.

sediment

Noun

solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

Encyclopedic Entry: sediment

shipwreck

Noun

remains of a sunken marine vessel.

silt

Noun

small sediment particles.

Encyclopedic Entry: silt

sponge

Noun

simple type of marine animal permanently attached to something in the water.

sport fishing

Noun

catching fish for competition or recreation.

sustainable

Adjective

able to be continued at the same rate for a long period of time.

tourism

Noun

the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

toxic

Adjective

poisonous.

vast

Adjective

huge and spread out.

whale

Noun

largest marine mammal species.

zone

Noun

area separated from others by artificial or natural divisions.

Encyclopedic Entry: zone

Credits

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writers

Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Santani Teng
Erin Sprout
Hilary Costa
Hilary Hall
Jeff Hunt

Illustrators

Tim Gunther
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society

Editors

Kara West
Jeannie Evers

Educator Reviewer

Nancy Wynne

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Sources

Dunn, Margery G. (Editor). (1989, 1993). "Exploring Your World: The Adventure of Geography." Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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