Definitions of Current Criteria for the MPA Inventory
On March 17, 2008, NOAA and the Department of the Interior jointly released a Revised Draft Framework for Developing the National System of Marine Protected Areas. The draft was published for public comment, and will be finalized by Summer 2008. It contains criteria, and definitions for marine protected areas (MPAs) that have been used to develop an inventory of United States MPAs. The MPA Inventory provides information that will be used to fulfill key requirements of Executive Order 13158 on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Background and Overview of MPA Criteria
Executive Order 13158 directs the Department of Commerce and
the Department of the Interior, in consultation with the Department
of Defense, the Department of State, the United States Agency
for International Development, the Department of Transportation,
the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science
Foundation, and other pertinent federal agencies, to work
with non-federal partners to protect significant natural and
cultural resources within the marine environment of the United
States, including the Great Lakes, by strengthening and expanding
a scientifically-based comprehensive National System of MPAs.
A key purpose of Executive Order 13158 is to ‘‘enhance
the conservation of our Nation’s natural and cultural
marine heritage and the ecologically and economically sustainable
use of the marine environment for future generations.’’
An important step in developing this scientifically-based National
System of MPAs is the development of an inventory of MPAs.
This inventory will become the initial pool of sites from
which eligible sites can be nominated by managing agencies to the National System.
The Department of Commerce and the Department
of the Interior were given specific roles by Executive Order
13158. The Department of Commerce has delegated lead responsibility
to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.
The Department of the Interior has delegated its lead to the
Assistant Secretary, Lands and Minerals Management. NOAA and
the Department of the Interior have stewardship responsibilities
for marine resources under various federal laws, including
the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act,
the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act,
the Coastal Zone Management Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries
Act, the Antiquities Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System
Administration Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act,
and the National Park Service Organic Act.
These and other authorities direct Department
of Commerce and Department of the Interior agencies to manage
marine areas for a wide variety of objectives. Area-based
management has been used for years to protect marine habitat
and submerged cultural resources, rebuild and sustain fisheries,
provide recreational opportunities, promote marine research,
recover endangered species, and support local economies that
depend on ocean resources. These areas have been managed in
different ways ranging from restricting specific activities
and allowing sustainable use of natural resources within an
area, to the establishment of marine reserves that limit access
and close the site to all uses except research.
The MPA Inventory will be used to inform federal, state, commonwealth, territorial, local, and tribal agencies of the locations and characteristics of existing MPAs and to form a pool from which eligible sites can be nominated by managing agencies to the National System. Resource managers and others can use this information to better manage these areas and determine the effectiveness of individual sites, as well as regional and national assemblages. The core purposes of the MPA Inventory are:
- providing centralized, easily accessed
information on and maps of existing federal, state, commonwealth,
territorial, local, and tribal MPAs in the United States;
- providing information and tools for environmental
assessments and effectiveness monitoring (supporting independent
analyses and studies of a wide variety of marine issues
by governmental and non-governmental users);
- providing important site-specific information
for developing and maintaining the official nationwide List
of MPAs required by section 4(d) of Executive Order 13158;
- providing information to fulfill other
requirements of Executive Order 13158.
NOAA and Department of the Interior have placed
a variety of protective or restrictive measures on different
marine areas to achieve different management purposes. The
definitions and working criteria are being used to build the
MPA Inventory and may, at some future date, be used in determining
which sites should be placed on the List of MPAs. These definitions
and criteria are final and incorporate public comment, as
appropriate, but may be changed at some future date if required
by experience gained by using the MPA Inventory and implementing
13158. The public will be informed of such changes to the
criteria through the Federal Register and this website.
It is important to distinguish between the
MPA Inventory and the List of MPAs. The MPA Inventory is not
designed to fulfill the requirement of Executive Order 13158
for a List of MPAs but is the first step toward development
of that List. The List is to be established at some future
date after an administrative process for listing has been
MPA Inventory Criteria from the Revised Draft Framework
Below are the criteria in the Revised Draft Framework that is being used to provide the basis for selecting sites to be included in the MPA Inventory. These criteria may be revised based on the public comment period taking place in Spring 2008.
Area: Must have legally defined geographical boundaries, and may be of any size, except that the site must be a subset of the U.S. federal, state, local or tribal marine environment in which it is located. Application of this criterion would exclude, for example, generic broad-based resource management authorities without specific locations and areas whose boundaries change over time based on species presence. The area must be one over which the U.S. has jurisdiction, consistent with international law.
Marine: Must be: (a) ocean or coastal waters (note: Coastal waters may include intertidal areas, bays or estuaries); (b) an area of the Great Lakes or their connecting waters; (c) an area of submerged lands under ocean or coastal waters or the Great Lakes or their connecting waters; or (d) a combination of the above. The term "intertidal" is understood to mean the shore zone between the mean low water and mean high water marks. An MPA may be a marine component part of a larger site that includes uplands. However, the terrestrial portion is not considered an MPA. For mapping purposes, an MPA may show an associated terrestrial protected area.
For the purposes of the national system, NOAA and Department of the Interior intend to use the following definition for the term "estuary": "Part of a river or stream or other body of water having unimpaired connection with the open sea, where the sea water is measurably diluted with fresh water derived from land drainage, and extending upstream to where ocean-derived salts measure less than 0.5 parts per thousand during the period of average annual low flow." Application of this criterion would exclude, for example, strictly freshwater sites outside the Great Lakes region that contain marine species at certain seasons or life history stages unless that site is a component of a larger, multiunit MPA.
Upon request, the agencies will work with individual federal, state and tribal MPAs and programs to examine unique conditions which may affect applicability of the term "estuary" or "coastal waters" for sites that have national or regional significance or representativeness.
Estuarine-like sites on tributaries of the Great Lake will be considered for inclusion if they are located within the eight-digit USGS cataloging unit adjacent to a Great Lake or its connecting waters.
Reserved: Must be
established by and currently subject to federal, state, commonwealth,
territorial, local or tribal law or regulation. Application
of this criterion would exclude, for example, privately created
or maintained marine sites.
Lasting: For natural heritage and cultural heritage MPAs, the site must be established with the intent at the time of designation to provide permanent protection. This definition recognizes that subsequent to establishment, MPA designation and level of protection may change for various reasons, including natural disasters that may destroy or alter resources, or changes in societal values. Should any of these changes occur, the status of the MPA relative to the national system could be re-evaluated.
Sites and/or protections that must have a specific legislative or other administrative action to be decommissioned shall be considered to have been established with the intent to provide permanent protection. For example, this would include sites that include a requirement for periodic renewal contingent on evaluation of effectiveness, with no specified expiration date.
For sustainable production MPAs, the site must be established with the intent at the time of designation to provide, at a minimum, the duration of protection necessary to achieve the mandated long-term sustainable production objectives for which the site was established.
For all MPAs, the site must provide the same level and type of protection at a fixed location and fixed and regular period of any duration during a year.
Protection: Must have existing
laws or regulations that are designed and applied to afford
the site with increased protection for part or all of the
natural and submerged cultural resources therein for the purpose
of maintaining or enhancing the long-term conservation of
these resources, beyond any general protections that apply
outside the site. Application of this criterion would exclude
restricted areas that are established for purposes other than
conservation. For example, the term would not include areas
closed for navigational safety, areas closed to safeguard
modern man-made structures (e.g., submarine cable no-anchor
zones), polluted shellfish-bed closure areas, areas closed
to avoid fishing gear conflicts, and areas subject to area-based
regulations that are established solely to limit fisheries
by quota management or to facilitate enforcement.
Taken together, these five definitions and
criteria provide the basis for selecting sites to be included
in the MPA Inventory.