A cartoon by Jim Toomey illustrating the importance of marine protected areas.
On April 22, the National Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Center, together with the Department of the Interior, announced the admission of 225 existing federal, state, and territorial MPAs into the National System of Marine Protected Areas.
This charter group of MPAs includes sites from state, territorial, federal, and federal/state partnership agencies in 28 states, plus additional offshore areas under federal jurisdiction. These areas were selected following the guidelines outlined in The Framework for the National System of Marine Protected Areas, which was released in November. This first group addresses all of the national system’s priority conservation objectives identified in the Framework document. Also, both no-take and multiple use MPAs are included in this first group.
Marine protected areas are among the most important tools we have to manage our nation’s ocean resources. The United States has more than 1,700 MPAs, established by federal, state, territorial, and local governments to protect ecosystems, conserve cultural resources, and sustain fisheries. Until now, there has not been an overarching mechanism to help MPAs across all levels of government work together toward common goals. Enter the National System of MPAs.
The national system does not does not bring state, territorial or local sites under federal authority, nor does it restrict or change the management of any MPA. Instead, it connects MPAs facing common issues and challenges and supports them as they work together to find solutions beyond their individual boundaries. In this regard, the national system will benefit the nation’s collective conservation efforts.
The inaugural group of 225 MPAs will be the focus of cooperative efforts to address common resource management challenges and has been placed on the official List of National System MPAs. The second round of nominations of sites to include on the List will begin later this year.