Marine Protected Area

Project Description
Executive Order 13158 defines marine protected areas (MPAs) as "any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by Federal, State, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein." There are many different types of MPAs in U.S. waters. Varying Definitions of MPAs Different Types and Characteristics of MPAs Working Definition for the MPA Inventory References

Varying Definitions of MPAs

The term "marine protected area" has been in use for over two decades. The concept of marine protected areas has been around for centuries. A marine protected area has come to mean different things to different people, based primarily on the level of protection provided by the MPA. Some see MPAs as sheltered or reserved areas where little, if any, use or human disturbance should be permitted. Others see them as specially managed areas designed to enhance ocean use. Many accept the definition developed by the World Conservation Union: "any area of the intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment" (IUCN, 1988; Kelleher, 1999). Not too different is the definition in Marine Protected Areas Executive Order 13158. This defines an MPA as "any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by Federal, State, territorial, tribal or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein" (Federal Register, 2000). Under this broad definition, a wide variety of sites could be considered as MPAs.

There are many different types of MPAs in the United States. For example, U.S. MPAs may include national marine sanctuaries, fishery management zones, national seashores, national parks, national monuments, critical habitats, national wildlife refuges, national estuarine research reserves, state conservation areas, state reserves, and many others. MPAs have different shapes, sizes, and management characteristics, and have been established for different purposes.

MPAs provide different levels of protection and use. They range from areas closed to public access, such as Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Key Largo, Florida (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001); to sites that permit access but do not allow consumptive uses, such as Edmonds Underwater Park in Washington (Murray,1998); to areas where the use of specific types of fishing gear is restricted, such as certain fishery management areas; and to multiple-use areas, such as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (National Ocean Service (a), 2000).

MPAs also protect a variety of specific natural and cultural resources. The near-shore Bristol Bay fishery closure area off Alaska protects king crab aggregations and habitat important to this valuable fisheries species (Code of Federal Regulations, 2000). The Virgin Islands National Park protects coral reef habitat and sea-turtle nesting areas (National Park Service, 1998). Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge protects habitat for endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal, coral reefs, and historical artifacts from the famous World War II battle that occurred there (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001). The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of North Carolina protects the site of this famous Civil War-era shipwreck (National Ocean Service (b), 2000).

MPAs can range dramatically in size and shape. There are small areas, such as the 14-acre Farnsworth Bank Ecological Reserve in Los Angeles County, California (McArdle, 1997), and large areas, such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California, which covers 5,300 square miles (National Ocean Service (c), 2000).

MPAs differ in location and jurisdiction. Some MPAs are in federal waters only, which, for the most part, extend from three to 200 miles offshore. These are managed under federal laws by federal agencies. Some MPAs are found only in state waters where both state and federal laws may apply. MPAs may overlap. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park share jurisdiction over some ocean waters (National Academy of Public Administration, 2000). Finally, some MPAs, such as the Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, include both marine and land components (Bauman et al., 1998).

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[Summary provided by MPA]