A National Treasure
Nantucket Sound lacks the type of meaningful protections that apply to other ecologically significant bodies of water in the region and throughout the country.
This lack of protection is especially problematic because of the unique geographic configuration of the Sound with federal waters in the center that are almost entirely enclosed by state waters. The state waters are protected by the Commonwealth under the Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act (MOSA), but the federal waters within Nantucket Sound are not protected.
By contrast, all of Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay are part of the state ocean sanctuary system and enjoy protections under MOSA. Buzzards Bay is also one of 28 bodies of water that belong to the National Estuary Program as are Massachusetts Bay, Narragansett Bay, Long Island Sound. Waquoit Bay is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
History of Efforts
Nantucket Sound State Waters
In 1971, Nantucket Sound state waters (out to 3 miles) were designated as a sanctuary under Massachusetts law. However, federal waters, the “hole in the doughnut,” remained unprotected and vulnerable to development.
National Marine Sanctuary Nomination
In 1980, Massachusetts nominated Nantucket Sound for designation as a National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). “Nantucket Sound contains significant ecological, commercial and recreational resources that have been at the heart of several past nominations for enhanced environmental protection and conservation policies within the region. The biological diversity and unique habitat areas of Nantucket Sound led the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to nominate the area for National Marine Sanctuary status […] Nantucket Sound is a recognized habitat for many state and federally protected species, including roseate terns, piping plovers, leatherback sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, and grey seals.” — Center for Coastal Studies, Provincetown, MA
National Marine Sanctuary Site Evaluation List
In 1983, Nantucket Sound was placed on the Site Evaluation List for NMS status.
Traditional Cultural Property
In 2010, as part of the review of Cape Wind under the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Park Service deemed Nantucket Sound a Traditional Cultural Property eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are numerous types of marine protection available to important and threatened bodies of water. The Alliance is seeking protection for Nantucket Sound as a National Historic Landmark to protect and preserve the Sound in perpetuity while ensuring that no additional federal management or regulations affect existing uses such as fishing and recreation.