Sea•thospedia: What are Marine Protected Areas?

Nov 09 2011

Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) are a tool used to protect the world’s oceans by designating certain areas of water as off limits to human activity. MPA’s consist of coastal areas, estuaries, the open ocean, inter-tidal zones, and the Great Lakes. Mangement of MPAs includes design and enforcement of restrictions on human activity by  local, state, territorial, native, regional, or national authorities.

There are 8,600 MPAs in the world and several are in U.S. waters.  Every MPA is different and limitations on human activity vary. Restricted human activity in MPAs include limitations on development, fishing, fishing season, and size of catch. While some MPAs are completely off limits to people, others allow access for recreational, educational, or research purposes. Marine Reserves, also known as no-take zones, are MPAs in which no one is allowed to remove cultural or natural resources from that specific area. Only 1.2% of the world’s oceans are currently protected. 

MPAs provide many benefits to marine ecosystems as well as to the public. Through MPAs endangered fish populations are allowed to replenish, damaged ecosystems can recover, and historical and cultural artifacts are preserved. MPAs also provide recreational, educational and economic benefits, as well as preserving the culture and livelihood of people who directly depend on marine environments. 

This map shows MPAs in the Southern California region.

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