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California, Oregon and Florida Lead in Strongly Protecting Marine Ecosystems; Remaining US States Lag in Conservation Efforts

Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in securing strong protection for the world’s oceans, released its annual SeaStates 2015 report today at the 2015 Esri User Conference. This year’s report on no-take marine reserves in the waters of US coastal states and territories uncovers an unfortunate truth: in the last year, there was no increase in the number or coverage of no-take marine reserves in US state waters, which generally includes all marine area within three miles of shore. While President Obama dramatically expanded coverage of marine reserves in remote federal waters since last year’s report, most coastal states still do not have a single marine reserve.

SeaStates 2015 shows that states with the best-protected marine environments are still California, Oregon and Florida, with Hawaii’s state waters in the remote northwestern islands and atolls remaining strongly protected within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. For the second year, the best-protected territories are American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. States like Washington and Virginia, however, individually protect less than 0.10 percent of their coastal waters through no-take reserves. Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas have yet to secure any strong protection for their coastal waters.

“This report highlights the lack of coastal protections,” says Dr. Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute. “It is unacceptable for the majority of states to fail in protecting any of their coastal waters with marine reserves.”

“Many of the most productive, ecologically diverse and valuable areas of US oceans lie in state waters along our coastlines,” says Dr. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, Assistant Professor of Research at Oregon State University. “Our oceans are changing, and reserves are a powerful tool for helping them to recover and remain vibrant and resilient. SeaStates 2015 points to the states that are already making strides towards protection, and shows how others can join them.”

At the federal level, ocean protection has moved forward since last year’s report. SeaStates 2015 highlights that significant progress occurred when President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to be the largest strongly protected area on the planet in September 2014.

The Power of Marine Reserves

No-take marine reserves are the most efficient and effective type of marine protected area. These reserves prohibit all extractive practices such as fishing, mining, dredging and oil and gas development, delivering the tangible conservation benefits that communities need and expect from protecting these areas. Many marine scientists recommend that at least 20 percent of each marine biogeographic region needs protection in order to avert large-scale extinction in the oceans in the face of global change.

To track and enhance marine protection efforts in the US and around the globe, Marine Conservation Institute built the world’s most comprehensive online marine protected area and no-take reserve database, Using this meticulously researched data system, Marine Conservation Institute produces annual SeaStates reports to identify US waters that are strongly protected and areas that need further protection. Through SeaStates 2015, Marine Conservation Institute hopes to bring awareness to citizens whose coastlines and marine environments lack strong conservation measures and urge governments to better protect our common resources.

About Marine Conservation Institute

Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s goal is to help create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure the future diversity and abundance of marine life. GLORES aims to improve existing marine protection efforts by identifying the most important marine locations and ensuring that these areas receive strong and permanent protection. Founded in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute is a US-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington DC.  For more information, please go to:

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