Why is our region applying for Marine Sanctuary Status?

This rare opportunity to join the 14 Marine Sanctuaries has not been available for 20 years. It could have a major beneficial impact on our combined communities.

  • Our closest accepted sanctuary resulted in a $100 million dollar regional Economic Impact
  • Potential for thousands of new jobs and tens to hundreds of thousands of visitors
  • Preservation and research of centuries of artifacts for future generations
  • New educational opportunities through universities and colleges
  • Research and development opportunities with world-wide interest


Preservation of our regional history and cultural through Federally funded protection and resources


From living classrooms for our children, to R&D through our universitites, along with visiting international researchers and vessels


Increased tourism, new and expanding museums, new business opportunities, and possibilities abound equating to major economic impacts

Thunder Bay - Mi

Currently the only Great Lakes National Marine Sanctuary, view the socio-economic impact becoming an NMS had on the surrounding community.

Economic Report

Visit Thunder Bay

Questions and Answers

General Questions

National Marine Sanctuaries or “NMS” areas are designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for research, education, and protection. NMS can only be designated for underwater, submerged areas within the ocean or Great Lakes waters. These are sites that contribute unique ecological, cultural, aesthetic, or recreational resources of national significance. They are selected for their opportunity to advance marine science, education, and conservation that support ecologic, economic, subsistence, and traditional uses. Examples of such resources include historic shipwrecks, critical underwater habitats for fish, or maritime sites of cultural importance. Of the 14 designated areas within the NMS system, 13 are located in ocean areas. Only one site is designated on the Great Lakes. That is the Thunder Bay NMS on Lake Huron in Alpena, MI.

The term “marine resources” broadly includes the natural and cultural resources within the Great Lakes or in ocean areas of the U.S.. Marine resources can include natural resources like the water, currents, and aquatic species. In the case of the proposed Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary, our nomination would focus on historic and cultural resources, like shipwrecks, archaeological sites, and marine resources of cultural significance to Native communities. Sanctuaries are established to conserve these resources in areas that encompass unique or significant natural and cultural features.

Designation of a NMS is a 2-step process. Nominating a site is the first step. Public involvement from a wide variety of interests and groups is essential to a successful nomination. The nomination must meet federally required criteria and have broad public support before it is accepted by NOAA. A successful nomination means that a Southeastern Lake Ontario NMS would be added to the inventory of areas that NOAA can consider for designation. A possible second step is for NOAA to begin the Sanctuary designation process. This involves developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) and management plan for the site. Public involvement and hearings are key in all parts of the designation process. The nomination and designation process can take many years to complete. It is important to note that the nomination and designation processes are separate. If nominated, there is no guarantee that NOAA would initiate the designation process for a site.

Fishing and Rectreation

The NMS nomination is being developed in a manner that would not be a detriment to recreational fishing and charter operations, nor result in any new regulations or limitations. The communities on Lake Ontario recognize the importance of angling to the local economy and quality of life, and will do nothing to jeopardize that. In fact, in Michigan the Thunder Bay NMS works closely with the sport fishing industry to enhance and promote the sport.

While some of the shipwrecks in the proposed area are too deep to dive, some are not and they are accessible for recreational diving. Among the goals of the sanctuary proposal is to promote responsible and sustainable access to recreational dive sites. An NMS designation could mean coordinated surveys of the lake bottom to identify and inventory resources like shipwrecks, determine their significance, and bouy those appropriate for safer recreational public access. In short, new dives sites may be discovered through sanctuary surveys and become available for recreational diving.

Home Owners

Riparian rights and concerns are respected in the NMS process. The sanctuary boundaries end at the water’s edge.

Unless you plan to place pier footings through a submerged historic resource, or otherwise damage an underwater feature identified and protected as part of the sanctuary, the answer is, No. Waterfront construction would still be regulated and permitted by the government agencies currently authorized to do so.


The NMS boundaries end at the water’s edge. Development regulations would not be impacted other than enhancing those that already exist to protect and conserve submerged cultural and historic resources.

Community Submitted Questions

Ontario, as the Great Lake closest to the Atlantic Ocean, experienced the earliest commercial activity of all the lakes and as a result, also has the oldest of the shipwrecks in the Great Lakes region. In addition, as the main inland naval theater of action for the early wars that were fought over the establishment of our nation, much of our nation’s early naval history rests here. Sanctuary designation is a tool to help us preserve and promote these cultural resources for generations to come without interfering with the other existing recreational and commercial activities that Lake Ontario provides for us.

A National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) on Lake Ontario, if designated, will have no effect on shoreline damage that might or might not occur as a result of natural or man made conditions. The proposed MNS is strictly focused on the preservation, protection and promotion of the historic resources that lie beneath the waters of Lake Ontario. In the case of offshore wind farms, designation as a NMS would likely require more extensive studies regarding the placement of underwater structures to ensure that they did not impact any historic resources.

Support the Great Lake Ontario NMS Application

To enter in to the NMS Application Process we first need your support!

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