Marine Protected Area - Global Status - United States

United States

In April 2009, the US established a United States National System of Marine Protected Areas, which strengthens the protection of U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. These large-scale MPAs should balance "the interests of conservationists, fishers, and the public." As of 2009, 225 MPAs participated in the national system. Sites agree to work together toward common national and regional conservation goals and priorities. NOAA's national marine protected areas' center maintains a comprehensive inventory of all 1,600+ MPAs within the exclusive economic zone of the United States. Most MPAs in the U.S. allow some type of extractive use. Less than 1% of U.S. waters prohibit all extractive activities.

In 1981 the Olympic National Park in Western Washington became a marine protected area. The total protected site area is 3,697 km2 with 173.2 km2 of the area being a marine protected area. The Olympic National park has been chosen to join a national program of marine protected areas nominated by their managing programs. The national system is a mechanism to foster great collaboration among participating MPA sites and programs to enhance stewardship in the waters of the United States. Sites that meet all pertinent criteria are eligible for the national system. There are four entry criteria for existing MPAs to join the national system: "1. Meets the definition of an MPA as defined in the Framework. 2. Has a management plan (can be sitespecific or part of a broader programmatic management plan; must have goals and objectives and call for monitoring or evaluation of those goals and objectives). 3. Contributes to at least one priority conservation objective as listed in the Framework. 4. Cultural heritage MPAs must also conform to criteria for the National Register for Historic Places."

In 1999, California adopted the Marine Life Protection Act, establishing the United States' first state law requiring a comprehensive, science-based network of marine protected areas. To implement the historic law, the state created the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. A high-level team of policy advisors (the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force) as well as stakeholder and scientific advisory groups ensure that the process uses the best science and an unprecedented level of public participation.

The MLPA Initiative established a plan to create California's statewide MPA network by 2011 in several steps. The initial (Central Coast) step was successfully completed in September, 2007. The second (North Central Coast) step was completed in 2010. The third (South Coast) and fourth (North Coast) steps are expected to go into effect in 2012.

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