In an effort to conserve critical natural and cultural marine resources, the U.S. Departments of Interior and Commerce are partnering with federal, state and territorial agencies to form a National System of Marine Protected Areas (MPA). NOAA announced the initiative today.
“This new national system provides a mechanism for all levels of government to work together to leverage resources, coordinate regional planning, and manage marine protected areas as a system,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We will continue to work with federal, state, tribal and local governments and stakeholders to share best practices for effectively achieving common marine conservation goals.”
Two hundred and twenty-five (225) existing MPAs managed by various agencies will initially enter the system, which aims to enhance protection of marine resources, build partnerships to address issues affecting MPAs, and improve public access to scientific information and decision-making about marine resources. The national system does not bring state, territorial or local sites under federal authority, nor does it restrict or change the management of any MPA.
While MPAs have been established throughout the U.S. for decades, there has not been an overarching mechanism to coordinate effective ecosystem management. About 100 federal, state, territory and tribal agencies manage the nearly 2,000 MPAs across the country, often with no coordinated strategy.
MPAs are areas where natural or cultural resources are given greater protection than in the surrounding waters. In the U.S., these areas may span a range of habitats including the open ocean, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, estuaries and the Great Lakes. The majority are ‘multiple-use’ areas, which allow fishing, diving, boating, swimming and other uses. ‘No-take’ MPAs allow human access but prohibit extraction or significant destruction of natural or cultural resources. They are sometimes used as research and monitoring zones, to protect spawning or nursery grounds, or to protect ecologically important deep-water habitats.
Eligible existing MPAs were invited to nominate themselves for inclusion into the national system beginning in November 2008. The second round of nominations will begin later this year. Priority conservation objectives will continue to guide development of the national system. You can read the full text of the announcement here.
Copyright © 2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC