What Is A Marine Protected Area?

A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a portion of the ocean where the government has set restrictions on human activities. Many MPAs encourage users to use the region in ways that do not affect the environment. In some MPAs,  fishing is completely banned. Many of them do not permit people to access the region at all.

MPAs have been created because there are many threats facing the ocean and the creatures that exist in it. Risks to the ocean include overfishing, pollution, water waste, and global climate change. These threats have led to a reduction in the population of many whales, aquatic mammals, and dying coral reefs.

Marine protected areas can have several common names, including marine parks, marine protection areas, marine reserves, marine sanctuaries and no-take zones. More than 5,000 MPAs have been established worldwide. Together, they occupy 0.8% of the ocean.

Marine protected areas can be formed in a number of marine ecosystems. There are several MPAs in the open ocean. A lot of MPAs safeguard the coastline. This includes estuaries, the areas where rivers join the sea, resulting in a mixing of freshwater with saltwater. A few freshwater ecosystems, including protected areas in the Great Lakes, are also known to be MPAs.

Goal Of Marine Protected Areas

Different MPAs have different priorities. The primary priority of many MPAs is to conserve the marine environment and the diversity of life that they sustain. For instance, the Galápagos Marine Reserve, which lies about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the western coast of South America, protects a number of small islands and surrounding waters. This reserve features a wide range of ecosystems, from coral reefs to cool ocean waves to mangrove swamps, where plants flourish directly in saline seawater. The seas of the Galapagos are home to 3,000 different species of plants and wildlife, including endangered species such as marine iguanas, the only sea lizard in the world.

Other MPAs concentrate on the preservation of heritage sites, such as shipwrecks. The USS Monitor was a battleship that sunk in a storm off the coast of North Carolina during the Civil War. The USS Watch National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1975 to protect the remnants of the ship. This was the nation’s first national marine sanctuary.

The majority of MPAs are implemented to make sure that resources are sustainable, that they will be conserved for future generations.  By providing quotas to avoid overfishing, these MPAs guarantee that fish can reproduce and sustain stable populations. This encourages people to fish year after year, preserving their way of life. Georges Bank, off the coast of New England and Nova Scotia, Canada, was once one of the largest fisheries in the world. But it has been extensively fished for decades, and cod, haddock, flounder, and other species have plummeted. After several MPAs have been developed between the United States and Canada, fish stocks have started to increase and fishing has improved.

Levels Of Protection

Different Marine Protected Areas provide different levels of security. The strictest form of MPA does not allow human entry at all. Not only does this discourages people from fishing, but it also prohibits people from destroying fragile ecosystems. No-entry MPAs tend to be small and are mostly used for research purposes. Sections of the vast Seaflower Reserve off Colombia’s Caribbean coast prohibit any human entry.

Many other MPAs are less strict than that. Fishing and collecting are not permitted in the MPA, but people can pass through the area and use it for leisure, such as snorkeling or swimming. For example, all Laughing Bird Caye National Park, which protects a small island 18 kilometers (11 miles) off the coast of Belize in Central America, is an MPA. The region is covered in multiple-use MPAs, although some fishing is permitted. Most national parks, such as the Acadia National Park in the U.S. state of Maine, are multi-use MPAs.

Most MPAs are separated into different regions. In certain regions, fishing is permitted, and in other areas, citizens will not be able to join at all. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is home to one of the biggest MPAs in the world. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is divided into different use areas. Most of these zones allow for leisure and commercial fishing. Approximately one-third of the park has stringent restrictions against fishing. Since these zones have been formed, the number of fish and corals has increased.

How Are MPAs Established?

Numerous MPAs are set up by national governments. State, local and tribal governments are now forming MPAs. For example, the U.S. state of California has set up a Point Lobos State Marine Reserve to preserve underwater canyons and kelp forests. The Quileute Tribe of the U.S. state of Washington is partnering with the federal government to establish a healthy fishery in the National Marine Sanctuary of the Olympic Coast.

National governments often work together to create a border-crossing MPA. The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals was created jointly by Italy, France and Monaco. It includes portions of the sea within the borders of the nations as well as territorial waters.

At certain MPAs, the standard of security remains the same throughout the year. In others, it is only during those seasons that people are banned from the region, mostly when essential species are breeding. In the Irish Sea, for example, fishing is regulated during the cod spawning season when fish develop and fertilize eggs. This helps to preserve the cod population.

Protected Ocean Waters In The United States

Just 4.8 per cent of the global ocean is covered by MPAs, with 2 percent of the total classified as strongly or entirely protected areas. By contrast, more than 15 percent of the world’s land area has a sort of regulation or protection.

Approximately 26% of the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ – the area of ocean extending 200 nautical miles from shore in which a coastal nation has jurisdiction over the natural resources) is covered, of which at least 23% is strongly protected. However, 97% of the city is situated in the rugged western Pacific Ocean region of the United States. The establishment of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in 2016 added more coverage to the East Coast, but this region accounts for just marginally more than 1% of the United States as a whole. The land of the Atlantic Ocean. While the United States is a world pioneer in MPA designations, there is a tremendous opportunity for future MPA designations to be distributed through representative ecosystems and bioregions within U.S. waters.