The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of 15 sanctuaries that make up the National Marine Sanctuary System stretching from the Gulf of Maine to the South Pacific.
Signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1992, the sanctuary is home to a wide variety of marine life, shipwrecks, and nautical activity with a focus on sustainability and ecological integrity. This article looks at the activities available to those interested in visiting the sanctuary and some of the ongoing research taking place.
What is the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary?
Located South of Cape Ann and a few miles North of Cape Cod, the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary is one of America’s “underwater parks.” These 842 square miles of Ocean are protected by the federal government in order to preserve the natural beauty and resources of the area. While certain activities are restricted, the area permits commerce, tourist, and recreational activities.
The location of the sanctuary, Stellwagen Bank, is famous for many things. It is a famous fishing spot and a location frequented by several types of whales. Additionally, it is the final resting place for many ships that have wrecked there throughout the years.
Whale Watching at Stellwagen Bank
The Stellwagen Bank is one of the best places to whale watch in Massachusetts. There are several whale-watching tours that visit the sanctuary from May through October. While visiting the sanctuary, you have the possibility of seeing:
- Finn whales
- Humpback whales
- North Atlantic Right whales
- Sei whales
- Minke whales
When choosing a whale viewing tour operator, look for the whale SENSE logo to find companies committed to environmentally responsible activities.
Diving at Stellwagen Bank
Due to the shipwrecks and variety of marine life, Stellwagen Bank is an extremely popular place for divers. The sanctuary has installed mooring buoys for popular dive sites.
Diving conditions are usually cold with strong currents. The deep water prevents the water temperature from getting above 50 degrees, and high winds can lead to strong currents. Make sure to come prepared for the conditions and keep an eye out for potential hazards.
Fishing at Stellwagen Bank
Another popular activity in the sanctuary is fishing. In order to legally fish at Stellwagen Bank, each angler over the age of 16 must have a saltwater fishing license.
Some of the popular fishes that can be caught include:
- Bluefin tuna
While fishing at the sanctuary, make sure to always practice ethical angling, including catch and release.
Research at the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary
The sanctuary is also an important location for scientific research. Ongoing research is being done on:
- Marine life
- Climate change
The research at the sanctuary is essential for understanding environmental sustainability and how our actions impact the Ocean.
Learn More About the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary
Want to learn more about the work happening at Stellwagen Bank? There are ongoing plans to construct a multi-use visitor center near MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown. However, if you are looking to learn more now, there are major exhibits on the sanctuary at the New England Aquarium and Maritime Gloucester.