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MBNMS International Activities and Collaborations

The central California region, today protected by Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, has a rich cultural history with countless international connections. From Spanish explorers, to Portuguese whalers, to Japanese abalone divers, to Italian fishermen immigrating from Liguria and Sicily, the natural abundance of the sanctuary has attracted and continues to attract international attention.

As such, MBNMS staff has been involved with a variety of international projects and partners. MBNMS has hosted individual and group visitors from other marine protected areas and marine-related organizations around the world. Additionally, MBNMS staff members have travelled and collaborated with other government agencies and various international marine organizations on a variety of topics and program areas.

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) conducts international activities to comply with the policies and purposes of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (160KB PDF*), which includes a requirement "to cooperate with global programs encouraging conservation of marine resources" (NMSA, Section 301(b)(9)).

Historically, ONMS staff participation has been short in nature, on the order of one or two weeks; travel costs for these have been funded by grants, partner countries, and on some occasions by ONMS base funds. The ONMS Director expanded the international activities to include the International Studies and Collaborative Management Program, designed to send a senior staff member to another country for 6-12 months to enhance NOAA's ability to evaluate and learn how a partner nation manages its marine resources. (Due to lack of funding and competing priorities this program has been discontinued.) These partnerships are part of an ongoing ONMS and National Ocean Service effort to cultivate relationships with other international ocean agencies.

MBNMS international collaboration and partnerships include:


Funded by Partners of the Americas, ONMS and Chile, through the Subsecretaria de Pesca and the Servicio Nacional de Pesca have a durable and diverse partnership. The goal of the partnership has been, among others, to facilitate the further coordination between the United States and Chilean governments on MPA cooperation.

The west coast regional office and MBNMS hosted a Chilean marine program manager for two months in 2006 to share ONMS experiences and practices employed by MBNMS and other west coast sanctuaries. As part of the partnership, in 2007 an MBNMS staff member participated in the Effective Tools for the Management of Marine Protected Areas training program with delegations from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.


The MBNMS Research Coordinator attended the 2nd International Symposium in 2003 on deep-sea corals in Erlangen, Germany. The purpose of this trip was to present research on deep sea corals at Davidson Seamount to the international community, in terms of science and resource protection.

Two peer reviewed papers resulted from these presentations, and they were published in 2005 in the book, "Cold-Water Corals and Ecosystems" edited by André Freiwald and J. Murray Roberts. Information from the research and increased international interest related to the conference were incorporated into the Sanctuary Management Review Process that eventually added the Davidson Seamount Management Zone to the MBNMS (in 2008).


Perhaps no country has a stronger current tie to the Monterey Bay marine region, particularly the city of Monterey, then Italy. In 2004 MBNMS staff began an extensive partnership with Italy to bolster the relationship between ONMS, particularly MBNMS, and the Italian network of MPAs. The partnership has resulted in a plethora of actions and outcomes, such as the production of cooperative agreements at varying levels, a sister sanctuary initiative, management and technical level exchanges to share expertise, an international film, and an opportunity for MBNMS to work closer with the local fishing community. To learn more about this extensive, bi-lateral partnership, click here.


As part of an ongoing NOAA Memorandum of Agreement with the Korean Ocean Research & Development Institute and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, MBNMS staff participated in a Marine Protected Area Experts Group meeting in 2006. The meeting was held to specifically discuss resource protection methodology, visitor center development and the use of volunteers in program and resource protection.

The group recommended a 5-Year Action Plan based upon the ONMS concept of an MPA life cycle—the maturation of a program or an individual MPA from planning and designation to adaptive management.


In 2002, the bilingual specialist for MBNMS's award winning MERITO program, served as part of a NOAA team assisting Spain in responding to the Prestige oil spill. This massive spill required international assistance, and this team helped design beach clean up programs, while also investigating and learning from the Prestige oil spill. The Spill Response Plan for MBNMS was modified based on her observations and reccommendations, upon return. The staff member's knowledge of natural resources and protection programs, coupled with her native fluency in Spanish, demonstrate how diverse staff members can contribute to challenges stressing protected places around the globe.

Ocean for Life

In addition to the partnership mentioned above, MBNMS has also participated in the Ocean for Life program, directed by ONMS. In 2011, twenty-eight high school students visiting from six countries in the Middle East and twelve locations across North America, including American Samoa and Canada, participated in a 12-day field study experience with the Ocean for Life program hosted by Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Throughout the program students were immersed in ocean field studies that facilitated cross-cultural learning, appreciation and lasting experiences between them, focused on three main themes: a sense of place, interconnectedness, and ocean conservation and stewardship.

The vision for Ocean for Life is to promote cross-cultural understanding among world cultures through a greater appreciation of the ocean and how it connects us all. The mission is to provide high-quality, immersive ocean field studies and follow on education programs to facilitate cross-cultural learning, appreciation and lasting experiences among multi-national students. More information on Ocean for Life can be found here.

Hosting International Delegations

As part of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), a national network of program agencies and 94 community-based organizations, MBNMS has hosted a number of international delegations over the past few years. NCIV's mission to increase international understanding between professionals from other nations and people of the US, and MBNMS has contributed by offering presentations on MPA management to a number of visiting groups. Examples include: Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam and Mexico.

ONMS International Collaborations

To visit ONMS International Collaborations webpage for more in-depth information on our international work, including the MPA Capacity Building Program and other projects, click here.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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