Posted by: Hendra Siry | 31 December, 2007

U.S. Efforts to Develop the National System of Marine Protected Areas

On September 2006 through February 2007, the National Marine Protected Areas Center released the Draft Framework for Developing the National System of Marine Protected Areas for public comment. In response, the MPA Center received over 11,000 submissions from around the nation representing over 100 specific comments. Comments came from many different organizations and sectors including: state and tribal governments, conservation and industry organizations, private individuals, commercial and recreational fishers and fishing groups/industry, fishery management councils and commissions, academia, and the MPA Federal Advisory Committee (FAC). Several commenters raised a common “big picture” issue – the scope and size of the system. They were concerned that the system was attempting to achieve all encompassing goals and objectives all at once, with little prioritization. Others commented on the large size of the system, and the potential for this to render the system ineffective.

To address these and other comments, the MPA Center solicited advice from the MPA FAC. In April 2007, the FAC was charged with preparing recommendations for the MPA Center that would be formally transmitted to the Departments of Commerce and the Interior and used to finalize the Framework for Developing a National System of Marine Protected Areas. Specifically, these recommendations focused on management criteria, priority objectives, and MPA categories. They help address the issues of the size and scope of the national system by recommending a minimum management capacity for MPAs in the national system; and identifying near, mid, and long term goals and objectives based on data availability and effort required. In addition, the MPA FAC recommended establishing a set of MPA categories for use within the national system. Such categorization would partition the national system into manageably-sized groups of comparable sites, provide a limited set of terms for clearly communicating about each site’s purpose and level of protection, and package sites based on comparable conservation objectives.

For more information on developing the National System of MPAs, visit or contact


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