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Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery; Historic Shipwreck Avoidance on Stellwagen Bank

Sustainable  Fisheries Division
(978) 281 –9315
March 26, 2018

Effective Immediately

In preparation for this year’s Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) scallop fishery, NOAA Fisheries, in conjunction with NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary), requests that scallopers avoid shipwreck sites in the Sanctuary by keeping gear 360 feet away from each of the site locations listed below. A chart on the back of this letter shows the area where these shipwrecks are located.


Historic and modern shipwrecks to avoid in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Vessel Name




Long DecDeg






42° 23' 42.1794”


-70° 29' 21.9114"

48.5 fathom




42° 22' 20.7798"


-70° 22' 13.7604"

16 fathom




42° 25' 15.765"


-70° 28' 10.4772"

18 fathom




42° 26' 21.1956"


-70° 24' 44.3628

47.5 fathom




42° 21' 32.2122"


-70° 23' 45.132"

46 fathom

North Star



42° 23' 2.004"


-70° 21' 21.6966"

16 fathom




42° 24' 15.3606"


-70° 27' 11.8182"

16 fathom

NOAA recognizes that fishermen want to avoid shipwrecks to ensure the safety of the crew and because of the risks of damaging their gear when the gear gets hung up on a wreck or other object on the ocean floor. Hanging up on a wreck also causes serious damage to shipwrecks that are important to our history. During the 2017 Northern Gulf of Maine (NGOM) scallop season, the wreck of a modern fishing vessel that was an important dive site suffered significant damage. That wreck was in close proximity to historic shipwrecks and the damage occurred in a location that experienced heavy scallop fishing.  Historic shipwrecks are protected under the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and associated Federal regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why are historic shipwrecks important?

Shipwrecks are important for several reasons:

·        Shipwrecks are one of the resources, like natural resources, protected by the Sanctuary.

·        They are time capsules that tell us about our past.

·        They can be memorial sites representing the last resting place of fishermen and sailors.

·        They provide habitat and refuge for a variety of marine life.

What are the regulations on historic resources in the Sanctuary?

Pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 15 section 921.142, the act of moving, removing or injuring, or attempting to move, remove or injure, a Sanctuary historical resource is prohibited. This prohibition does not apply to moving, removing or injury resulting incidentally from traditional fishing operations. In addition, possession of any historic resource is prohibited. The definition of “traditional fishing operations” means those commercial and recreational fishing methods which have been conducted in the past within the Sanctuary. Other Federal regulations apply as well.

How are shipwrecks regulated under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)?

Under the NHPA Section 106, Federal agencies are obligated to take into account the effects of their undertakings (including issuance of permits) on historic properties, including shipwrecks. Historic properties are properties that are included in the National Register of Historic Places or that meet the criteria for the National Register. As part of this consideration, agencies are required to consult with state historic preservation officers, tribes, or any other interested parties to identify and resolve (i.e., avoid, minimize, or mitigate) adverse effects.

What if I inadvertently damage a wreck?

The specific prohibition on injuring a Sanctuary historical resource does not apply if the damage is incidental to a traditional fishing operation (as opposed to intentional). NOAA greatly appreciates being notified of any interactions with a wreck, as it will help NOAA learn more about an unknown wreck, or to take steps to investigate and mitigate any damages caused by an inadvertent interaction with a known wreck. Please record the coordinates, the conditions, and any other pertinent information regarding such an interaction, and contact Ben Haskell, Acting Superintendent, (781) 546-6005 or

Why is the Sanctuary concerned about protecting historic shipwrecks?



The Sanctuary is home to numerous shipwrecks, reminders of this nation's maritime heritage. These shipwrecks are tangible connections to the past that allow us to study and better understand human history. The Sanctuary is required by the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the National Historic Preservation Act to locate, assess, protect, manage, and interpret its maritime heritage resources. Shipwrecks are nonrenewable gateways to the past and it is through the interpretation of these archaeological resources that NOAA hopes to increase public enjoyment and appreciation of New England's maritime history and foster stewardship of America's maritime legacy.

Where can I get more


For information on maritime heritage management and cultural resources in the Sanctuary please see the 2010 management plan here.

For information on the National Historic Preservation Act, go to their website.

Chart of Area on Stellwagen Bank Where Shipwrecks are Located

For small entity compliance guides, this bulletin complies with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act of 1996.  This notice is authorized by the Regional Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Region.