photo of a red urchin
Red Urchin and invertebrates on Cordell Bank. Credit: NOAA

A permit is required when an individual wishes to conduct an activity within a sanctuary that is otherwise prohibited.

How to Apply

Refer to the National Marine Sanctuaries Permits page to help determine if a permit is required for your proposed activity. Guidance, instructions, application forms, and related information are provided.

Permit applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In general, the types of activities that may qualify for a permit include research on sanctuary resources, educational activities, and activities that assist in managing a national marine sanctuary. There are also a few activities that may be eligible for special use permits.

When to Apply

While the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) aims to process applications by the requested permit start date, this is not guaranteed. ONMS generally reviews applications on a first-come, first-served basis (unless sanctuary-specific priorities are established). For many applications, after initial review, ONMS requests supplementary details. ONMS typically issues most permits within 45 days of having a complete application with a sufficient level of detailed information. However, processing times may be longer depending on a variety of factors including:

  • the sensitivity or complexity of the request;
  • the number of pending applications under review at that time of year; and
  • any requirements for additional environmental compliance analyses (e.g., environmental assessments) or consultations with other agencies or tribes. Applications that may require ONMS to prepare an environmental impact statement prior to issuance will typically require at least 12 months to process.

Where to Apply

Submit completed applications to the office for the sanctuary in which you plan to conduct the activity. For Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the preferred submittal method is to email the application to Lilli Ferguson, the sanctuary's permit coordinator, at

Sanctuary Prohibitions

Activities prohibited in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary can be found in program regulations here. If your proposed activity includes any prohibited action, a permit is likely required.