NOAA 2005-R413
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ben Sherman
4/1/05
NOAA News Releases 2005
NOAA Home Page
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GRAY’S REEF NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY DEDICATES NEW RESEARCH VESSEL
SAM GRAY

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will dedicate its new research vessel Sam Gray on April 15, 2005, at the dock of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, home of the sanctuary’s administrative offices. The Commerce Department’s NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, manages the sanctuary.

“The Sam Gray represents a major step forward in the sanctuary’s research and monitoring programs by providing a substantial platform for sanctuary diving operations, which is the most basic tool we have to help manage the use of coastal and ocean resources,” said Sanctuary Superintendent Reed Bohne.

The Sam Gray will enable sanctuary scientists to better assess and predict changes in the natural systems within the sanctuary and to provide information about the future. The new boat, a 36-foot aluminum craft manufactured by Silver Ships, Inc. in Theodore Ala., is the first research vessel built exclusively for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Gray’s Reef took delivery of the vessel in late December 2004.

The new boat and the sanctuary are named in recognition of Milton B. (Sam) Gray, who studied the area in the 1960's as a biological collector and curator at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, Ga. Gray established an extensive collection of invertebrate species from the area that was then known locally as the Sapelo live-bottom. The collection hinted of the varied underwater habitat and the diversity of life found in today’s sanctuary. Gray was born in 1895 and worked as a collector for both the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., and at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island. He died in Woods Hole in 1967.

Designated in 1981, GRNMS is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 17 square nautical miles. GRNMS consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to ten feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live-bottom and ledge habitat support an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community. Loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, also use Gray’s Reef year-round for foraging and resting, and the reef is within the known winter calving ground for the highly endangered Northern Right Whale.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one coral reef ecosystem reserve that encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

The NOAA National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA’s National Ocean Service: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov

National Marine Sanctuary Program: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary: http://www.graysreef.noaa.gov