Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures

Letter from Jean-Michel Cousteau
marine sanctuaries
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Get Involved: What You Can Do

America's underwater ecosystems need our help!

By designating more than 150,000 square miles of water as National Marine Sanctuaries, the U.S. government has taken an important step to legally protect our unique underwater treasures. Our natural heritage will continue to be guarded for future generations -- but only if we act wisely to care for it.

Make sure that you enjoy wildlife responsibly by following these tips:

Respect wildlife
  • View wildlife from a distance for your safety and its protection. Use binoculars, spotting scopes and zoom lenses to get a closer view. Watch for behavioral changes; if wildlife responds to your presence --changes direction or behavior, looks at you, becomes agitated or even flees-- you are too close!
  • Don't disturb wildlife on land or by boat. Harassing animals causes them to abandon valuable resting, breeding or feeding sites. Plus, seabird chicks and seals could be abandoned by their parents.
  • Leave pets at home when visiting wild habitats, since they can scare wildlife.
  • Do not try to attract animals. Calls, whistles, recordings, decoys, chumming and feeding may disturb and confuse wildlife and interfere with their natural behaviors.
  • Do not touch a wild animal even if it appears to be sick, injured, or orphaned; it may simply be resting. If you are concerned about an animal, contact local wildlife authorities for assistance.
  • Refrain from feeding animals. Feeding wild marine mammals is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and can result in penalties.
  • Dispose of trash properly. Wildlife can be injured or sickened by ingesting human food, fishing hooks, nets, garbage, and other manmade debris.

Protect habitat
  • Stay on trails. Walking off-trail could damage sensitive habitats such as sand dunes and intertidal zones.
  • Pay attention while boating. Running aground or dropping an anchor on a reef can ruin habitat. Hitting marine mammals such as sea otters and seals can injure or kill them.
  • Resist collecting shells, crabs, and other marine specimens and artifacts.

The content for these tips is courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Etiquette Program. For more, visit: