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

History of Gray's Reef

Gray's Reef was designated as a National Marine Sanctuary on January 16, 1981 by President Jimmy Carter.

The Sanctuary was named in recognition of Milton "Sam" Gray,who studied the area in the 1960's as a biological collector and curator at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, Ga. The nearshore hard-bottom reef off the coast of Sapelo Island was recognized by Sam Gray in 1961 in connection with his extensive biological surveys of the ocean floor off the Georgia coast. Collections made during the surveys are under the protective supervision of the University of Georgia Natural History Museum and maintained as the "Gray's Reef Collection". Over 200 lots of his invertebrate collections from Georgia waters are housed at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

In 1974, Jesse Hunt, a graduate student working under Dr. V. J. Henry was the first geologist to study the reef. He proposed the name "Gray's Reef" for this live-bottom habitat to commemorate Sam's valuable contribution to the understanding of offshore habitats and marine organisms, especially those of the near-shore continental shelf of Georgia. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources submitted a nomination to the Secretary of Commerce in June 1978 recommending the designation of Gray's Reef as a National Marine Sanctuary. Georgia environmental activist Jane Yarn was instrumental in getting the Gray's Reef designation documents to the president's desk as well as in getting other important Georgia environmental areas protected.

In 1999, Gray's Reef created a Sanctuary Advisory Council of concerned users and citizens to advise the staff in managing the site. The inaugural Council was chaired by Dr. Jim Henry and included representatives from science, education, sport diving, sport fishing, and conservation. Since then, the Council has evolved to include commercial / charter fishing, state and other federal agency representation.

With the help of the Council, Gray's Reef revised its management plan in 2006, put the associated regulations in place in 2007 and issued its first Condition Report in 2008. Deliberations with the Council also led to a prohibition on spearfishing in the sanctuary that became effective in early 2010. Again, through significant involvement of the Sanctuary Advisory Council, Gray's Reef is currently considering an action that would set aside part of the sanctuary as a protected Research Area.


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