Lake Ontario Designated as New Marine Sanctuary


Designated in 2024, Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary is a historically rich area where the long interactions between human activity and the maritime environment has fostered a deep sense of meaning and place. The lake shores and bottomlands of Lake Ontario offer an intriguing window into the history of this special area. The first regional inhabitants, the ancestors of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, populated the area thousands of years ago. As the gateway between the Great Lakes and the ocean, the maritime landscape of this area represents connections between diverse cultures, between a nascent nation and the frontier, and of commerce, opportunity, and ingenuity. The cultural legacy of people who lived along its shores and journeyed across its waters is showcased by the remains left behind and the stories passed down. Forgotten shipwrecks and archaeological resources, hidden in these cold fresh waters, are among the best preserved in the world, offering a chance to learn, share, and connect to the past.

NOAA has published a final rule to designate Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario to recognize the national significance of the area’s historical, archaeological, and cultural resources and to manage this special place as part of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The final sanctuary boundary will encompass 1,300 square nautical miles (1,722 square miles) of eastern Lake Ontario waters and will border Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego, and Jefferson counties.

NOAA will co-manage the sanctuary with New York state. The sanctuary will expand on the state’s stewardship of these historic sites and bring new opportunities for research, resource protection, educational programming, and community engagement. In partnership with local communities, the sanctuary will provide a national stage for promoting heritage tourism and recreation.