US SeaStates 2017
As of the end of 2017, the US has 23.2% of its waters in strongly protected MPAs. State and territorial waters have 1.3% of their waters in “strongly protected” MPAs while 23.9% of federal waters out to 200nm are strongly protected. It should be noted that if the Pacific Islands are removed from the analysis, only 1.0% of state waters and 0.01% of federal waters are in “strongly protected” MPAs.
The greatest coverage of strongly protected MPAs once again is in the waters of Hawaii, American Samoa, California and the US Virgin Islands. With no new MPAs or reserves designated in the past year there was little-to-no change in the official ranks for this report. Our strongly protected category includes all no-take areas plus Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
If the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments are opened up to commercial fishing as currently proposed in a report by the Department of the Interior, US strongly protected numbers would drop from over 23% to only 12.5%.
Our ocean has many different habitat types with species assemblages unique to each one. While it is critically important that we balance protection across all habitats in each marine region, we have yet to achieve representative protection in the United States. Prior to President Obama’s establishment of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, US marine protection was essentially limited to one large marine region in the central Pacific, leaving many unique habitat types in continental waters without protection. The creation of this new monument was a powerful step in the right direction, but its future existence is very much in doubt. Commercial fishermen in New England are fighting hard to roll back the protections from destructive bottom fishing and the Department of Interior has included the monument in its current recommendations to the Trump administration.