Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Banded Sea Star About the Sanctuary
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are we shutting down GRNMS?   No.

A: The management plan for Gray's Reef does not include shutting down the sanctuary to users. Gray's Reef does have a Research Area in which activities are restricted.
     The southern third of NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is a research area for controlled scientific studies to evaluate effects of human activities on sanctuary resources. Fishing and diving are prohibited in the research area, but transit across the area is allowed so long as vessels don't stop and fishing gear on board is stowed and unavailable for use.
     NOAA believes the research area will help managers more accurately assess possible impacts from activities such as bottom fishing on the sanctuary's natural resources by providing an area relatively free of human activity that can be compared to the rest of the sanctuary.
     The research area - roughly eight square miles - allows scientists to study the impact of natural events such as hurricanes and droughts on the sanctuary, and it also serves as a place to monitor and study impacts of climate change, such as ocean acidification.
     The rest of the sanctuary is open for recreational fishing, diving and other uses such as education and scientific research that are compatible with the goals of the National Marine Sanctuary Program's mission of protecting and conserving the nation's marine resources now and in the future.
     We cannot speculate on what the future will bring, but the management of Gray's Reef is a dynamic process that reflects the fact that constant review is needed to protect it for the future. The management plan is currently undergoing review, with many opportunities for public input. Management decisions now and in the future will be based on the condition of Gray's Reef and what the community and NOAA consider the most appropriate steps to take to manage santuary resources.

Q: What is South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMS) in relation to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and GRNMS?
Is GRNMS part of National Marine Fisheries Service?
What is the difference between the two organizations?

A: A National Marine Sanctuary is not part of the Fishery Management Council system. Fishery Management Councils, such as the SAFMC, are established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and are charged with reducing overfishing and maintaining fish stocks. The SAFMC advises NMFS (NOAA Fisheries Service) in management of marine fish stocks in federal waters for sustainable fisheries. Sanctuaries are not charged with managing fisheries.
    Marine Sanctuaries are designated by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. ONMS is responsible for identifying, designating, and managing ocean and Great Lake areas of special national significance as national marine sanctuaries. Sanctuaries are managed to protect and conserve their resources and to allow uses that are compatible with resource protection. Like NOAA Fisheries, Sanctuaries depend on citizen input through the Sanctuary Advisory Councils to advise NOAA on how to protect Sanctuary resources while allowing compatible use.

Q: What is a National Marine Sanctuary?
Why is GRNMS a NMS?

A: A National Marine Sanctuary is a type of marine protected area recognized by the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as containing a special habitat or other special resource. Marine Sanctuaries can be designated by several means (for example, by Act of Congress) and are managed by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.
    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) is the underlying legislation for all national marine sanctuaries. NMSA authorizes the existence of the ONMS, describes the purposes and policies of the ONMS, and provides authorization for appropriations. The NMSA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate and protect areas of the marine environment with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, cultural, archeological, educational or aesthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries. Day-to-day management of national marine sanctuaries has been delegated by the Secretary of Commerce to NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The primary objective of the NMSA is to protect marine resources, such as coral reefs, sunken historical vessels or unique habitats.
    The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) is the underlying legislation for all national marine sanctuaries. NMSA authorizes the existence of the ONMS, describes the purposes and policies of the ONMS, and provides authorization for appropriations. The NMSA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate and protect areas of the marine environment with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, cultural, archeological, educational or aesthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries. Day-to-day management of national marine sanctuaries has been delegated by the Secretary of Commerce to NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The primary objective of the NMSA is to protect marine resources, such as coral reefs, sunken historical vessels or unique habitats.
    Gray's Reef was designated in 1981 in acknowledgement of the ecological importance of its live-bottom habitat; it is one of the largest near-shore, live-bottom reefs of the southeastern United States.

Q: Who enforces the rules at GRNMS?

A:The National Marine Sanctuary Act (NMSA) authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to access civil penalties for violations of sanctuary regulations. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) supports an enforcement philosophy that fosters voluntary compliance through educating sanctuary users, and promoting a sense of stewardship toward the living and cultural resources of the sanctuary. The sanctuary program's goal is to provide a law enforcement presence in order to deter and detect violations.
    The ONMS conducts its enforcement efforts through cooperative partnerships with other agencies, including the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard. In addition to the U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement in Gray's Reef is a cooperative partnership between the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources GADNR) and is carried out by the GADNR law enforcement team. Through a Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA), state officers are deputized to enforce Federal and state regulations, including sanctuary regulations.


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