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Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 11 (June 2, 2011) - Marine Protected Areas

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on marine protected areas from February 2009 with Joe Uravitch from the National Marine Protected Areas Center.  

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Joe, first, can you start by telling us what the difference is between a marine protected area and a marine reserve?

JOE URAVITCH: Sure. People often confuse the two. Both are general terms. Marine protected areas, or MPAs, are special places in our oceans or Great Lakes that are established for the conservation of their natural or cultural resources. Marine reserves are actually a type of more restrictive MPA. Usually places called marine reserves will restrict the catching of fish, collection of shells, or other activities where there’s something removed from the area. Some places may even prohibit access for any purpose, including scientific research, without a permit.

HOST: So, because conservation is the main goal for our nation’s MPAs, are there restrictions on human activities to maintain this conservation goal?

JOE URAVITCH: Depending on what the MPA is intended to protect, yes, there can be restrictions on some or all activities within an MPA. However, most U. S. MPAs do not prohibit fishing and recreational uses throughout their boundaries. In fact, less than one percent of United States waters are no-take areas. An example of a marine protected area where uses are restricted for conservation purposes would be the National Marine Sanctuaries like the Florida Keys Sanctuary, which includes some areas that are off-limits to fishing and boating in order to protect sensitive habitats.

HOST: Joe, you mentioned that less than one percent of MPAs in the U.S. are no-take areas. What are no-take areas? Does this apply only to fishing?

JOE URAVITCH: Although they’re rare, no-take areas are MPAs or zones that allow human access, but that totally prohibit the extraction or destruction of natural or cultural resources. This applies to all activities that may cause harm. Usually fishing comes to mind as the biggest prohibited activity, but no-take areas have restrictions that are applicable to several different users.

No-take MPAs are sometimes used to protect spawning or nursery grounds, or to protect ecologically important habitats. Some are used as research and monitoring zones to serve as a baseline that allows comparisons by managers and scientists. Of the few no-take areas in U.S. waters, most are small and interspersed within larger areas that do allow consumptive uses. 

HOST: Since MPAs are established for the conservation of resources, can people interact with MPAs?

JOE URAVITCH: Yes, the majority of MPAs in the United States are open for most public uses including commercial and recreational fishing, diving, and boating. In fact, less than one percent of all U.S. waters are in closed areas.

That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to and select the February 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Joe Uravitch on marine protected areas.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper Shorts in June.