Archives - Challenges
Marine Protected Areas Executive
Order 13158 directs federal agencies to "strengthen the
management, protection, and conservation of existing marine
protected areas and establish new or expanded MPAs" through
the creation of "a scientifically based, comprehensive
national system of MPAs representing diverse U.S. marine ecosystems
(Federal Register, 2000). This opportunity
brings many challenges. The U.S. currently does not have a
"blueprint" for building such a system. It will
take much cooperation and strong partnerships, new science
and exploration, additional resources, public participation
and good planning to successfully complete this goal. Building
a comprehensive system of MPAs, as called for in the Executive
Order, is perhaps the most important, and most challenging,
ocean management effort of the 21st century.
an Ecosystem Approach
Enhancing Scientific Knowledge
Coordinating Across Complex
Managing Multiple Uses
Selecting New Marine Protected
The challenges created by Executive Order
13158 are many and varied. Some, such as developing a truly
comprehensive system of MPAs that represents the nation's
diverse marine ecosystems, are new. Others, like managing
the multiple uses that take place in many existing MPAs, create
the need for enhanced scientific knowledge and monitoring
in order to balance uses with resource protection. Many of
the challenges fall into five major categories: 1) taking
an ecosystem approach, 2) enhancing
scientific knowledge, 3) coordinating
across complex jurisdictions, 4) managing
multiple uses, and 5) selecting new
marine protected areas.
an Ecosystem Approach
Challenge. The Executive Order
states that the national system of marine protected areas
should represent the nation's "diverse marine ecosystems."
The challenge is to identify these ecosystems and their diverse
Discussion. An ecosystem is
the pattern of relationships between all biotic (living) and
abiotic (nonliving) entities within a defined boundary of
space and time" (Hoban and Brooks, 1987).
Ecosystems include different habitats, species groups, critical
areas, and unique features. Marine ecosystems, however, are
not easily partitioned. Attaching boundary conditions to marine
ecological processes is notoriously difficult, just as it
is difficult to bound the impacts that affect those processes
||More than 106,000 boats are registered
in South Florida, making boating one of the most popular
activities in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Boaters enter the sanctuary year-round, from all directions,
to fish, dive, snorkel or simply to enjoy the subtropical
The links between marine ecosystems are widespread
in time and space (Steele, 1974). Currents
meander or change direction under the influence of tides (Kenchington
and Agardy, 1990). The water column transports both nutrients
and pollutants that reach the sea through river outflows,
runoff, erosion or rain, as well as by absorption from the
atmosphere. In many marine environments, particularly in highly
productive temperate waters, plankton and nutrients carried
by currents can travel almost 500 kilometers in a week. (Kenchington
and Agardy, 1990).
These complex processes, which involve multiple
spatial and temporal levels, make marine systems fascinating
to study, difficult to characterize, and even harder to manage.
To make matters even more challenging, marine ecosystems seldom
fall neatly within the artificial political boundaries of
local, state, and federal jurisdictions.
Meeting the Challenge. Meeting
this challenge suggests research and analysis in two likely
areas. The first is to define and map the nation's marine
ecosystems and their diverse components, starting with an
assessment of previous efforts. The second may be to evaluate
the extent to which existing MPAs represent those ecosystems
and their components.
The nation's existing MPAs represent diverse
marine ecosystems, from warm-water coral reef habitat in the
Caribbean to productive fishery zones off the coast of Alaska.
However, the extent of ecosystem protection afforded by existing
MPAs needs formal analysis. Section 4(a) of the Executive
Order encourages the use of several assessment techniques
to support an ecosystem approach to marine protection. These
include "integrated assessments of ecological linkages
among MPAs," the "biological assessment of the minimum
area where consumptive uses would be prohibited that is necessary
to preserve representative habitats in different geographic
areas of the marine environment," and "practical,
science-based criteria and protocols for monitoring and evaluating
the effectiveness of MPAs."
Challenge. The challenge to
enhance the scientific basis for establishing, managing, and
assessing the effectiveness of MPAs falls into three areas:
(1) knowing and understanding the living resources of an MPA
and how they interact, (2) understanding how human activities
affect marine systems, and (3) understanding the societal
and economic implications of management decisions. Achieving
this level of understanding involves synthesizing existing
information, conducting research and monitoring, and knowing
which activities should receive the greatest priority and
||The sea floor is marked by the passage
of trawl fishing gear. Heavily fished areas no longer
have any significant amount of three-dimensional cover.
The development and enforcement of sustainable fishing
practices are high priorities for MPAs. Photo: Peter
Auster - National Undersea Research Center, University
Discussion. Most MPAs permit
human activities. At the same time, marine resource managers
are often faced with management decisions with scant scientific
information about the resources that will be affected. In
general, less is known about the impacts of human activities
on the marine environment than on terrestrial ecosystems.
Much of this lack of knowledge can be attributed to the difficulty
and expense of conducting marine research.
Nevertheless, it is often impractical to wait
for all scientific information to be available in the face
of a resource management problem or a proposal to conduct
an activity in a marine area. Some advocate the use of the
"precautionary approach" to resource management
in the face of scientific uncertainty. They argue that if
the potential impact of a proposed action is uncertain, priority
should be given to maintaining ecosystem health and productivity.
Waiting too long to act may call for more drastic corrective
measures in the future.
Meeting the Challenge. The Executive
Order calls for the development of a "scientifically
based, comprehensive national system of MPAs," the "science-based
identification and prioritization of natural and cultural
resources for additional protection," and "practical,
science-based criteria and protocols for monitoring and evaluating
the effectiveness of MPAs." Simply stated, research and
monitoring are critical to providing the type of information
needed to build a comprehensive system of MPAs, and to improve
the management of existing ones.
Across Complex Jurisdictions
Challenges. The use of marine
resources is governed by many different laws and regulations,
and MPAs often overlap multiple jurisdictions and involve
multiple management partners with different responsibilities.
As a result, it can be both confusing and difficult to sort
out the various jurisdictions and institutional roles in marine
areas. Coordinating management efforts across areas of complex,
multiple jurisdictions is a challenge to designing and implementing
a comprehensive national system of MPAs.
Discussion. Implementing the
Executive Order provides an opportunity to more effectively
coordinate the multiple jurisdictions that manage human activities
in the marine environment. State/federal jurisdiction is complicated
by many federal laws that usually apply across all state and
federal waters and submerged lands, including state and federal
MPAs. Some of these laws are the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery
Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act,
the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Clean Water Act, the
Oil Pollution Control Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,
the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and others. The National
Marine Fisheries Service alone is responsible in some fashion
for administering 37 different pieces of legislation that
are designed to manage and protect living marine resources
Federally designated marine protected areas are often adjacent
to, close to, or even within the boundaries of one another.
State-designated MPAs and resource protection statutes add
to the number of jurisdictions and authorities. This mix of
laws and jurisdictions often requires coordination efforts
that are difficult to manage effectively. On the other hand,
better coordination with public agencies that are not directly
responsible for managing MPAs, but whose authority affects
marine areas, could help improve the quality of MPAs. Two
of these agencies at the federal level are the U.S. Coast
Guard, which is responsible for marine transportation, and
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible
for water quality.
||One-person submersibles, such as the
WASP suit,have been used by the National Undersea
Research Center and other institutions to study areas
of the oceans the previously were innaccessable. This
type of research helps resource managers make more informed
decisions about the marine environment they are striving
to protect and preserve.
Meeting the Challenge. The key
to creating the national system of MPAs will be to establish
a more coordinated program of management, assistance, and
information- sharing among the large number, diverse types,
and complex jurisdictions of existing MPAs. Managing individual
MPAs as part of a unified system may require organizations
to relinquish some autonomy for the benefit of the greater
good of the MPA system. Increased levels of coordination are
likely to make the management decision-making process even
more complex, but the result will be to improve the overall
management of MPAs.
Challenge. Designing and managing
MPAs involves determining what uses will be permitted and
what levels of use will be allowed. Use increases the risk
that resources will be degraded. Diving may damage coral reefs.
Fishing can deplete populations. Shipping increases the risk
of collisions and oil spills as well as introduces exotic
species via the discharge of ballast water. Boating increases
the chances of disturbing wildlife, and, in some cases, damaging
submerged aquatic vegetation. Uses may also conflict or be
incompatible with one another.
Discussion. Most existing MPAs
are used for a variety of purposes. MPA designation, however,
allos the authorities to regulate these uses. Sport fishing
may be permitted in national wildlife refuges. Marine components
of national parks are used for recreation. Estuarine research
reserves enforce policies to protect sensitive research areas
and habitats, but most offer camping, hiking, boating, wildlife
observation, and/or fishing. Permits are often required, and
some recreational uses are limited seasonally or during nesting
seasons. National marine sanctuaries are required by law to
"facilitate to the extent compatible with the primary
objective of resource protection, all public and private uses
of the resources of these marine areas not prohibited pursuant
to other authorities" (NMSA, 1972). While regulations
vary considerably among existing sanctuaries, some uses, such
as dredging, dumping, and removing certain materials, are
prohibited. Other areas have different guidelines for how
to manage multiple uses. Public input and stakeholder participation
are essential parts of determining how best to manage different
types and levels of use within MPAs.
Meeting the Challenge. Addressing
this challenge requires a process for determining how various
uses will be managed in MPAs. This will require an extensive
and ongoing public dialogue, as well as improved monitoring
and research, to determine the impact of human activities
on MPA resources.
To help understand how to manage multiple
uses in MPAs, the Executive Order calls for four analyses,
including (1) "integrated assessments of ecological linkages
among MPAs, including ecological reserves in which consumptive
uses of resources are prohibited"; (2) "a biological
assessment of the minimum area where consumptive uses would
be prohibited that is necessary to preserve representative
habitats in different geographic areas of the marine environment";
(3) "an assessment of the threats and gaps in levels
of protection currently afforded to natural and cultural resources";
and (4) "the identification of emerging threats and user
conflicts affecting MPAs and appropriate, practical, and equitable
management solutions, including effective enforcement strategies,
to eliminate or reduce such threats and conflicts."
Some of the best tools -- education and outreach
-- can ensure that visitors to an MPA understand the value
of protected resources and how various activities can affect
these resources. When visitors and users understand that resource
management is necessary and appropriate, they are more likely
to comply with, support, and play active roles in developing
||Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
harbors spectacular tidewater glaciers and a unique assemblage
of marine and terrestrial life. The parks pristine
outer coast opens to the Gulf of Alaska, which flows to
the Pacific Ocean. A maritime sanctuary surrounded by
mountains and covering more than 3.3 million acres, Glacier
Bay National Park secures the coastal flank of the largest
internationally protected area on Earth.
Selecting New Marine
Challenge. Executive Order 13158
calls for the development of a scientifically based, comprehensive
system of MPAs. To meet this challenge, a comprehensive set
of information will have to be developed and subjected to
thorough analysis guided by the goals stipulated in the EO.
The objectives of this analysis will be to identify gaps in
existing protections and/or areas whose present levels of
protection could be reduced. Public input and participation
will prove essential to this process.
Discussion. Discussion. Most
marine areas that are designated for protection are selected
opportunistically amid strong public or government support
(Salm et al, 2000). While public support
is crucial to the success of establishing an MPA, ad-hoc site
selection may ignore important factors, such as ocean currents
and larval transport, that link biological communities over
hundreds of miles of ocean. Thus, decision-makers may have
to consider establishing systems or networks of MPAs over
large regions or between nations (Kenchington
and Kelleher, 1995). Ad-hoc selection may provide little
or no representation of important marine features, and may
hinder the future designation of more representative areas
in the same coastal region (Mondor, 1995).
Meeting the Challenge. This
challenge will require the establishment of national goals
and selection criteria for MPAs; the eliciting of guidance
and knowledge from the marine science and management communities
(e.g, the MPA Advisory Committee);
the development and application of new analytical tools to
evaluate the contribution of existing sites to national MPA
system goals; and the review the nations existing configuration
of MPAs. Key tools in this process are the National
Marine Managed Areas Inventory, and the numerous federal,
state, territorial, and tribal laws that provide the legal
basis for establishing MPAs.
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