Major portion of Lake Ontario being considered for national marine sanctuary

The map showing boundary and approximate location of shipwrecks in the proposed national marine sanctuary. Source: NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is asking the public to comment on the possibility of designating a national marine sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario to protect historically significant shipwrecks and related maritime heritage resources. This is the first step in the designation process.

The proposed 1,700-square-mile sanctuary, adjacent to Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga and Wayne counties, would protect 21 known shipwrecks and one aircraft representing events spanning more than 200 years of the nation’s history. An additional 47 shipwrecks and two historic aircraft are also likely located within the proposed boundaries, based on historical records.

The proposed sanctuary also includes a separate area surrounding the HMS Ontario, which is both the oldest confirmed shipwreck (1780) and the only fully intact British warship discovered in the Great Lakes.

About the nomination

In January 2017, the State of New York, City of Oswego and four counties (Oswego, Jefferson, Wayne and Cayuga counties) submitted a nomination for the proposed Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary to be added to NOAA’s inventory for potential designation. New York nominated the area to protect and increase awareness of a nationally significant collection of shipwrecks, to foster partnerships with education and research groups, and to increase opportunities for tourism and recreation as part of the regional Blue Economy.

A diverse coalition of organizations and individuals at local, state and regional levels endorsed the nomination. This included elected officials, government agencies, a Native American tribe, historical societies, businesses, museums and environmental, recreational, conservation, tourism and education groups.

NOAA’s sanctuary system

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. Through the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA can identify, designate and protect areas of the marine and Great Lakes environment that have special national significance.

For more information contact Ellen Brody, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, at (734) 741-2270 or

Andrea Lee