Where will our next
Blue Park be?
Let's create a healthier future by
protecting our ocean!
Our blue backyard is our ocean, and all the waterways that lead to it.
Blue Parks are special places in the ocean that are protected
for current and future generations.
Like our National Parks on land,
we have many Blue Parks as well.
There are four major candidates
for the next Blue Park:
Deep beneath the ocean’s surface, 45 to 185 miles off of California’s coast, a series of underwater mountains stretches across the bottom of the sea. Known as “seamounts,” these ancient volcanoes rise thousands of feet above the ocean floor, hosting fragile living habitats like 500-year-old corals and vivid deep-water sponges. The nutrient-rich waters surrounding seamounts also support delicate food webs and sustain migrating seabirds, sharks, and endangered whales and sea turtles. Research expeditions to these extraordinary places continue to yield new and rare species.
While relatively pristine because of their remote location, seamounts and the marine wildlife they support are vulnerable to human impacts like deep-sea mining, oil and gas drilling, fishing and climate change. Rapid changes are already occurring in our ocean as our waters continue to get warmer, become more acidic and hold less oxygen. Irreversible damage can easily occur before we understand the true value of these places.
Thousands of scientists, educators, business owners, beachgoers, tribal members, faith-based organizations and conservation organizations support the protection of these special places. With less than 1% of the federal waters off California permanently protected, creating new long-term protected areas are an investment in the future that can insure against the impacts of our changing ocean.
For more information, please visit www.californiaseamounts.org
Globally, there are over 30,000 documented seamounts. Rising from the depths, these underwater mountains modify the flow of water and nutrients around them, providing rich oases above their peaks and supporting whales, sharks, billfish, tuna and seabirds, among many other species. Seamounts harbor an average of 20% endemic species that do not occur in other marine environments. For this reason, these unique areas serve as a vital frontier for scientific discovery.
California seamounts were primarily formed during volcanic eruptions occurring between 7 and 16 million years ago, with the most recent seamount forming just 2.8 million years ago. There are 56 documented seamounts in the federal waters off of California, but there are likely many more that have yet to be discovered. These unique geological features allow deep-sea and nearshore creatures to live side-by-side, creating a rich biological diversity that exists nowhere else in the world.
Sharks have been shown to use the unique magnetic signatures of seamounts off the coast of California to navigate, supporting the idea that seamounts may act as critical resting, feeding and mating locations for top predators.
The only hydrothermal vent systems within U.S. federal waters are along Gorda Ridge, which straddles the northern coast of California and southern coast of Oregon. These underwater hot springs support unique chemosynthetic communities that may hold clues to the origins of life.
Northeast Canyons & Seamounts (Success!)
New England Coast
BREAKING NEWS: President Obama recently approved the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument! Read more here.
Approximately 150 miles off the coast of southern New England, where the continental shelf drops off into the ocean abyss, lies a chain of undersea canyons and nearby seamounts that are home to an incredible richness of ocean life. The canyons plunge thousands of feet deep, some deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the seamounts rise as high as 7,000 feet above the seafloor, higher than any mountain east of the Rockies. The waters above the canyons and seamounts teem with diverse marine life.
Currently pristine, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is highly vulnerable to long-term harm from commercial fishing, oil and gas exploration, and other resource extraction activities. Hundreds of thousands of scientists, educators, business owners, boaters, surfers, beachgoers, and members of faith-based organizations—together with the region’s leading aquaria and conservation organizations, representing millions more people—support permanent protection of this area. We have an historic opportunity to forever protect this unique biodiversity hot spot.
The geography of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts gives rise to an elaborate underwater world of ocean species. Communities of brilliant, cold-water corals line the walls of the canyons and seamounts, supporting a diverse deep-sea ecosystem and providing refuge for fish and invertebrate species. Nearly 1,000 species have been identified in the Northeast Canyon and Seamount region, and researchers are discovering more with every expedition.
The walls of the five canyons and the slopes and summits of the four seamounts in this region are alive with vivid cold-water corals of otherworldly beauty—some the size of small trees that have taken centuries to grow. These coral communities form the foundation of deep-sea ecosystems, providing food, spawning habitat, and shelter for an array of fish and invertebrate species.
Upwellings of deep, cold water bring nutrients to plankton and schools of squid and forage fish, like mackerel. This concentration, in turn, attracts tunas, billfish, sharks, seabirds, and marine mammals, such as endangered sperm whales and the North Atlantic right whale, the rarest of the North Atlantic’s great baleen whales. In recent years, research expeditions to these ocean oases have uncovered new and rare species, yielded new understandings about ecological relationships and the biological diversity in the canyons and on the seamounts, and fueled new appreciation of the uniqueness of these ecosystems.
Papahānaumokuākea Expansion (Success!)
BREAKING NEWS: President Obama recently approved the proposed expansion of Papahānaumokuākea! Read more here.
The Hawaiian Archipelago is the world’s oldest and longest volcanic chain and is the world’s northernmost atoll. The area includes environments that represent different stages of island and seamount formation and is one of the last remaining intact large-scale, predator-dominated coral reef ecosystems in the world.
When President George W. Bush established the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2006, it was the largest fully protected marine reserve on the planet. Its current protections extend 50 miles from the shore of the 1,000-mile-long island chain. When Papahānaumokuākea is expanded, it will cover the full area of federal jurisdiction. Its new boundary will extend out to 200 miles, making it four times larger than its current size (and allowing it to reclaim the title of largest fully protected marine reserve in the world).
The extensive coral reefs found in Papahānaumokuākea are truly the rainforests of the sea. Many of the islands and shallow water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, as well as the 14 million seabirds representing 22 species that breed and nest there.
The area is one of the few remaining predator-dominated ecosystems in the world, with strong populations of sharks, Hawaiian grouper, and other large predatory fish that have been heavily overfished elsewhere. Apex predators represent more than half of the biomass in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, compared with three percent in the main Hawaiian Islands.
The current monument protects the habitat of more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are believed to be found nowhere else in the world. While the current boundary of Papahānaumokuākea includes vital habitat for a number of species, it does not fully protect habitat and travel routes for several species including Hawaiian Monk Seals, green sea turtles, sharks, whales, and Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses. The new expansion under President Obama will increase the size of the monument by four times, making it the largest marine protected area in the world.
Buck Island and St. Croix
The Caribbean Sea's warm temperatures and abundant sunlight provide just the right conditions for delicate coral reefs to blossom, which in turn provide habitat for tropical fish, sea turtles, whales, and seabirds. Tiny coral polyps build strong structures that then become the home of a wide variety of marine life. In fact, 25% of all ocean species depend on reefs for food and shelter. Beyond protecting ocean life, coral reefs also benefit humans in many ways. They physically protect our shorelines, create sand, provide medicine, and give us food.
President Kennedy established the first fully-protected marine area in the United States — the Buck Island National Monument — in 1961. The uninhabited Buck Island sits just 1.5 miles north of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The proposed Buck Island and St. Croix Marine Sanctuary would offer more protection to vulnerable species in the surrounding waters.
Elkhorn coral dominates the coral reef ecosystem that surrounds St. Croix, representing one of the largest and most developed island barrier reefs in the Caribbean Sea. This coral reef supports a vibrant and richly diverse ecosystem of more than 250 species. Hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles nest in the area, and young turtles feed in the reef and seagrass environment. Brown pelicans and least terns also call the area home. Two species of endangered whales, humpback and sperm, migrate through in late winter and early spring.
In addition, the area contains other important habitats, including algal plains and ridges, seagrass beds, rocky shores, beaches, mangroves, and salt ponds. The marine area surrounding St. Croix and Buck Island has a higher number of endemic flora and fauna than other islands in the area and is home to over 400 species of fish.