NOAA 2000-074
Contact: Gordon Helm


Secretary of Commerce Norman Y. Mineta says a peer-reviewed report on Marine Protected Areas, released today by the National Research Council, provides additional support for U.S. efforts to identify and protect special ocean areas to help sustain marine fisheries, preserve valuable habitats, provide outdoor leisure opportunities, and maintain healthy marine ecosystems for the benefit of the nation.

"This report, commissioned by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides strong scientific support for the value of marine protected areas, and President Clinton's call for more effective use of MPAs," said Mineta. "As this study also suggests, MPAs will only be successful as effective management tools if we enlist the participation of all stakeholders, provide effective planning and design, and ensure regular monitoring, assessment, enforcement and community education."

The study notes that the concept of marine reserves or protected areas has been in use in some form for the past 25 years. Recently, there have been strong advocates for reserves, with a similar level of concern from some resource users about the efficacy of marine reserves as a resource management tool.

"The NRC report underscores our concern that our oceans are beginning to show wear and recommends MPAs as an essential tool for inclusion in restoration and conservation tool kits," Mineta said. "We need to do a better job of protecting and nurturing our oceans and coastal environment. Healthy oceans are critical to the nations economy as one of every six jobs in the U.S. is related to our oceans and coastal areas."

The report endorses the use of MPAs as additional fishery management tools to be used in combination with, and not as a replacement for, traditional means of fishery management. As the report states, fishery management councils and other groups have utilized the MPA concept in a variety of ways for years, closing areas to various types of fishing gear for varying time periods. Fishermen, scientists and conservationists have found benefits from different types of protected areas, including areas closed to fishing, providing protection and recovery of species that have declined in numbers due to overfishing or other factors.

The report notes that there are multiple goals and benefits of MPAs, such as conserving biodiversity, improving fishery management, protecting ecosystem integrity, preserving cultural heritage, providing educational and recreational opportunities, and establishing sites for scientific research.

The report suggests a roadmap on how to implement MPAs that includes:
1. Evaluating conservation needs at local and regional levels; 2. Defining objectives and goals; 3. Describing the key biological and oceanic features; and 4. Identifying and choosing MPA sites that have the highest potential for implementation.

A major concern is the limited experience resource managers have in determining the costs and benefits of MPAs over more conventional management approaches. The report noted that "MPA-based approaches will shift the focus from agency-specific problem management" to a more comprehensive approach to protect the oceans. "To accomplish this, it gave me great pleasure to recently announce the establishment of the MPA Science Center in Santa Cruz, Calif.," said Mineta. "I have also directed NOAA to work with our partners to marshal our joint resources to develop the science, tools, and strategies necessary to support marine protected areas."

NOAA, anticipating the growing interest in MPAs in recent years, provided primary funding for the study titled "Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems."