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Nantucket Sound - Preservation

The Alliance actively supports the designation of Nantucket Sound as a protected area, safeguarding traditional uses like fishing and recreation but prohibiting industrial development.

"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 in 1980. The resources of Nantucket Sound were again deemed worthy of consideration for National Marine Sanctuary status by the resource evaluation committee appointed by the National Marine Sanctuary Program in 1983. These resources are equally significant today. 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, 2003

A National Treasure
Nantucket Sound is an environmentally sensitive body of water recognized as an irreplaceable national treasure. It should be off limits to industrial development, particularly in light of better alternative sites. Nantucket Sound is recognized as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  A key federal historic agency recommended that the Department of Interior deny or relocate Cape Wind because the impacts to the Sound “would be pervasive, destructive, and in the instance of seabed construction, permanent.” 

History of Efforts to Protect the Sound
Nantucket Sound, which includes 750 square miles of water and seabed between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, has long been under consideration for sanctuary designation. It is a significant marine habitat for a diversity of species, a source of livelihood for fishermen, and a source of solace, relaxation, and recreation for millions of visitors.

  • 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. See the map below where the yellow area is federal waters.
  • In 1980, Massachusetts nominated Nantucket Sound for designation as a National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). 
  • In 1983, Nantucket Sound was placed on the Site Evaluation List for NMS status.
  • In 2010, as part of the review of Cape Wind under the National Historic Preservation Act,  the National Park Service deemed Nantucket Sound eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
  • After a twenty year hiatus, in 2014, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reestablished the NMS nomination and designation process, creating a significant new opportunity for protecting Nantucket Sound.  



This map shows the proposed site of Cape Wind, which would be in federal waters (shaded yellow) and surrounded by state waters.