The United States of America


Political sylte: Democratic, Federal Republic

The United States has an established system of 14 national marine sanctuaries, covering an area of 18,000 square miles (47,000 square kilometers). The United States also recently established the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument, which is currently the largest marine protected area in the world. It covers an area of 140000 square miles (360000 square kilometers) (NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries).

The United States has strongly established fisheries and environmental regulations (Magnuson-Stevenson Act 1976) and also has national legislation that also addresses the creation of MPAs (National Marine Sanctuaries Act 1972).


  1. Existing marine sanctuaries do not have sufficient management authority under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

    As it currently stands, the management authorities of the marine sanctuaries only have very limited ability to regulate fishing and boating within the borders of the sanctuary (Stellwagen Bank NMS 2007). Currently, restrictions on fishing are the responsibility of the National Marine Fisheries Service and regional fisheries councils. While such organizations have placed restrictions in response to sanctuary designations, these measures do not generally include the no-take, no-disturbance areas that are required under our proposal (National Academy of Public Administration 2000).

  2. Cultural issues and the conflict between development and conservation

    Fishing and other maritime activities have been a longstanding and time-honored part of American culture. Any measure that would increase fishing restrictions would likely face significant, short-term public opposition, especially among fishermen.

    Additionally, other stakeholders, such as minerals interested have historically opposed the establishment of MPAs. For example, the establishment of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Texas was delayed by almost 15 years due to concerted oil industry lobbying against the sanctuary (Flower Garden Banks 2007).

  3. Environmental protection and science are not national priorities

    Given current affairs, environmental protection and science are not among top national priorities for the United States. This limits the funding available for scientific activities, and that available for the establishment of new MPAs.

  4. Lack of public awareness interferes with environmental protection

    In general, the American public does not have high ocean literacy, a strong awareness of ocean-related issues, or high general environmental awareness. Such a lack of knowledge and awareness makes it extremely difficult to demonstrate the necessity of any protective measures. It interferes with attempts at environmental protection, regardless of type, but especially the establishment of marine protected areas. It is extremely difficult to gain support for measures to protect that about which the public knows little.

  5. Difficulties in international relations makes global action difficult

    Recent American foreign policy has had the unfortunate effect of alienating and reducing the global influence of the United States. This has made the implementation of ideas perceived to come from American sources at times difficult or impossible. At the same time, the related issues of the oceans and marine protected areas are so global that a multilateral approach is almost certainly required, especially for management in waters outside the jurisdictional control of states.


  1. Streamline the process for establishing new marine protected areas

    Currently, the process for new MPAs has difficult and requires multiple levels of bureaucracy, public hearings, and fact-finding. These barriers have meant that over the 35 years of the National Marine Sanctuaries act only 14 marine sanctuaries have been established. In general, less emphasis should be placed on establishing the effectiveness of any given proposal relative to all other management strategies. Instead, given the scientific consensus on the effectiveness reserves, more effort should be placed into where and how to implement reserves, as opposed to whether to implement.

    There are other alternatives to national legislation. For instance, note that the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument was established by an executive order of the president. This example hints at a more efficient method for establishing marine sanctuaries.

  2. Strengthen and expand the current National Marine Sanctuaries system through explicit legislation and direct funding

    Currently, MPAs in the United States account for about 3.6% of its total exclusive economic zone. This is a very good beginning and the coverage significantly above the global average. However, it is important to note that these coverage figures do not contain a significant proportion of no-take reserves. Also, in general, management authorities of marine sanctuaries do not currently possess the direct authority to regulate fishing, shipping, and other human activities. Such authority should be granted under a strengthened Marine Sanctuaries Act or other legislation.

    The United States needs to continue its efforts to expand the National Marine Sanctuaries system with a special emphasis on the increase of the use of no-take zones in its management strategy. The goal of covering at least 10% of its jurisdiction should be explicitly mandated in new, strengthened legislation or through executive order.

  3. Improve the layout of new and existing marine sanctuaries

    A network of carefully targeted smaller reserves, operated at more local levels of government would be an excellent way to augment the existing federal sanctuaries. Smaller reserves would make it easier to target particularly threatened, unique, or interesting ecosystems without the need for closing off broad swaths of the ocean.

    Also, combining the operation of marine and land-based protected areas will naturally expand the jurisdiction of organizations like the National Park Service to marine sanctuaries. Consolidation can reduce costs, streamline operations, and make the establishment of coastal reserves faster and easier (Baumgardner, et. al. 2005).

  4. Engage in a formal public ocean education program

    Ocean education should be a mandatory part of all public school curricula. The oceans are represent 71% of planet's surface and a significantly larger percentage of its biosphere volume (Thurman & Trujillo 2002). The current neglect for ocean literacy in many school systems is a terrible oversight and should be rectified immediately. The National Marine Sanctuaries system can be a terrific educational resource, whether through direct access or by remote access through technological solutions. Also, consider that school aged children have traditionally been an excellent conduit for bringing awareness to parents (Nugent 2004).

  5. Sponsor public awareness campaigns

    The general population must be made and kept informed of ocean issues, in particular those regarding MPAs. One of the most effective way to do that in the united is in the use of mass-market media. These campaigns can be broadly targeted and disseminated in a wide variety of formats, from radio and TV to print advertising.

  6. Work internationally to encourage global conservation and movement towards the 10% plan

    Although the global influence of the United States has diminished in recent years, it is still one of the leaders in the international community. The United States is the world's largest contributor of direct financial aid to developing nations and still possess considerable clout. If environmental protection is made a national priority, aid could be made contingent on positive steps by partner country. The United States is capable of and should be willing to provide technical, scientific, and financial assistance to other nations that show an interest in establishing MPAs or in taking other steps towards global sustainability.

    At the same time, the United States needs to set a good example for the rest of the world. Increased and better publicized domestic programs to reduce energy consumption and wastefulness will go a long way towards improve the American environmental public image worldwide.

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