Oceans are essential to human survival and prosperity, yet our activities are pushing many critical marine species toward extinction. Marine biologists suggest that the best way to maintain the oceans’ diversity, abundance and resilience is to protect marine life in their ecosystems, especially in marine protected areas (MPAs) that minimize extractive activities such as - fishing, mining and oil and gas development. While many coastal states and territories have established marine protected areas, these zones are often temporary and/or offer limited protection from bottom trawling and other detrimental activities, providing few long-term conservation benefits to marine life and people. Studies show that no-take marine reserves are the most effective type of protected areas. The benefits of marine protected areas increase when they are larger, more isolated, eliminate fishing, effectively enforced, and established for five or more years.
However, numerous “MPAs” lack many, if not all, of these safeguards critical to ensuring the resilience of our ocean ecosystems. No-take marine reserves, in contrast, prohibit all extractive activities and deliver the conservation benefits that marine life need to thrive. Protecting biodiversity in marine reserves increases the abundance and diversity of marine life exported to surrounding areas, both securing food resources for millions of people and preventing loss of species. In this report we group these fully protected no-take marine reserves with several large and isolated MPAs that permit recreational fishing at insignificant levels, calling this group “strongly protected MPAs”.
SeaStates is a rigorous, quantitative account of strongly protected MPAs in the waters of US coastal states and territories updated annually by the team at MPAtlas.org. First published in 2013, our annual reports are intended to be a tool to measure and evaluate the progress towards effective marine protection in US waters.