Marine Protected Areas: A Timeline of MPAs in the U.S.

Written by on January 14, 2014 in Policy & Ocean Law
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Greg McFall, NOAA.

NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center recently published a new report on the state of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the United States.

MPA is a broad term for areas with varying levels of protection. Some allow for recreational use (kayaking, fishing, etc.) and others are completely closed to all activity. The one thing they all have in common is “a focus on the long-term conservation of coastal and ocean ecosystems and the resources and services they support.”

MPAs are generally recognized as one of the most effective ways to protect our oceans and studies have demonstrated the high economic value of MPAs, yet less than two percent of the ocean is protected.

Marine Protected Areas of the United States: Conserving Our Oceans, One Place at a Time examines the coverage of area and resources and the level of protection, and provides several case studies in MPA management.

Here’s the timeline of MPA expansion in the United States that’s outlined in the report:

1903 – President Theodore Roosevelt establishes the first MPA and the first National Wildlife Refuge in the United States, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

1913 – The first MPA in National Park System is created at Cabrillo National Monument, California.

1967 – Hanauma Bay Marine Life Conservation District is designated as the first no-take MPA in Hawaii.

1972 – The National Marine Sanctuary Act is passed.

1974 – The wreck of the USS Monitor is nominated for National Marine Sanctuary status, and becomes the first National Marine Sanctuary in 1975.

1980 – The Michigan underwater preserve system is created to protect historic ship wrecks for future generations.

Coral in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Coral in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: NOAA.

1987 – Florida begins development of a statewide system of underwater parks.

1998 – A National Ocean Conference is held in Monterey, California. President Clinton and Vice President Gore call for a comprehensive program for national action for the oceans.

1999 – California’s Marine Life Protection Act is passed.

2000 – President Clinton issues Executive Order 13158, calling for the establishment of a National System of Marine Protected Areas. The National Marine Protected Areas Center is established.

2001- The Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John’s and the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are established.

2002 – California establishes 10 marine reserves and two marine conservation areas within Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary.

2006 – President Bush establishes Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i, the largest MPA in the US.

2007 – The National Park Service sets aside Research Natural Area at Dry Tortugas National Park as no-take zone.

2009 – President Bush establishes the Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments. The National System of Marine Protected Areas is formally established.

2010 – President Obama establishes the National Ocean Policy.

2012 – California completes the coastal component of the statewide Marine Life Protection Act network with 124 MPAs, including 58 no-take MPAs. Oregon establishes a no-take marine reserve.

2013 – At the end of 2013, there are more than 1,700 MPAs in the United States.

The future – Hopefully it includes creating more MPAs and expanding MPA networks, improving management and effectiveness, and eliminating gaps in protection.

Take a look at the report to learn more.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: NOAA.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Find MST on Instagram Connect with MST on Google Plus

Comments are closed.