Establish a strongly linked,
scientifically based, comprehensive network of protected areas
representing diverse U.S. marine ecosystems.
National parks, wilderness
areas, wildlife management areas, state forests, and city parks
are all examples of land-based protected areas. The designation
of protected areas on land has a long history and proven track
record for providing long-term protection, resource management,
recreational opportunities, and other uses. Marine protected
areas are defined as any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain,
together with overlying waters and associated flora and fauna,
and historical and cultural features, that have been reserved
by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the
enclosed environment. Categories of marine protected areas can
range from strictly protected wilderness areas to multiple-use
There are approximately 300
marine protected areas in the U.S. managed by federal agencies,
state governments, or nongovernmental organizations. U.S. marine
protected areas include National Marine Sanctuaries; selected
National Parks, Seashores, Monuments, and Wildlife Refuges; National
Estuarine Research Reserves; National Estuary Program areas;
and certain areas designated for rebuilding fish stocks in Fishery
Marine protected areas are
important management tools with unique potential to help communities
protect and sustainably use their valuable marine and coastal
resources. They have been used effectively to conserve and manage
natural areas, reduce user conflicts and impacts from user activities,
provide educational opportunities, enhance commercial and recreational
opportunities, and provide undisturbed areas for scientific comparison
with nearby degraded habitats. Despite these benefits and the
fact that oceans cover over 71% of the Earth's surface, internationally,
less than 1% of the sea is designated as marine protected areas.
Domestically, about 1% of the ocean area under U.S. jurisdiction
is designated as marine protected areas, and less than 1% of
these areas protect marine life from fishing and other impacts.
Many natural treasures on land have been given special protections
to allow them to remain as undisturbed as possible as part of
the National Wilderness Preservation System. No such system exists
for U.S. ocean environments.
- The U.S. does not have an
integrated, comprehensive network of sites representing the nation's
major ocean and coastal environments.
- There is no comprehensive
approach to designating, evaluating, or monitoring marine protected
areas at either the state or the federal level.
- Marine protected areas have
not been used effectively for the long-term protection and sustainable
use of commercial and recreational fisheries.
- Limited funding prevents adequate
enforcement and monitoring in existing marine protected areas.
- There are too few areas that
preserve marine biodiversity by limiting fishing and other harvest
- Increase linkages among existing
marine protected areas within the U.S. and with those in neighboring
countries to create a well-coordinated network of sites for long-term
monitoring, public education, sustainable use, research and exploration,
and protection of natural resources.
- Establish criteria to evaluate
the effectiveness of existing marine protected areas, and improve
individual site performance and the success of the overall network.
- Identify areas of important
ocean biological diversity and productivity, and habitats for
endangered species and commercial and recreational fisheries
species, including essential fish habitat and coastal and marine
areas that provide key ecosystem functions or contain significant
U.S. historical or cultural resources.
- Examine the concept of marine
wilderness areas and its applicability to U.S. marine protected
- Evaluate the ability of existing
marine protected areas to protect unique or representative examples
of biological, cultural, or historical resources; identify new
areas of important ocean diversity and productivity; and add
sites and capacities to address specific local, tribal, regional,
national, or international issues and needs.
- Leverage public dollars to
encourage private donations by corporations and individuals to
support national marine sanctuaries and other marine protected
- Seek Congressional support
for the Clinton/Gore Lands Legacy Initiative, which proposes
to more than double the funding to strengthen our nation's twelve
national marine sanctuaries.
For more information
Concern for the future of the
Tortugas, an area comprised of islands and rich coral resources
in the Florida Keys, led federal and state agencies, local communities,
fishermen, divers, and others to form a unique partnership to
design and evaluate solutions to help protect this sensitive
area. This group, using ecological data, socioeconomic information,
and public input, unanimously recommended establishment of a
new marine protected area for the Tortugas marine communities.