Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas

What is a marine protected area?

Marine protected areas (MPAs) in the U.S. come in a variety of forms and are established and managed by all levels of government.

There are marine sanctuaries, estuarine research reserves, ocean parks, marine monuments and marine wildlife refuges. Each of these sites are different.

Marine protected areas may be established to protect ecosystems, preserve cultural resources such as shipwrecks and archaeological sites, or sustain fisheries production.

There is often confusion and debate regarding what the term “marine protected area” really means. Some people interpret MPAs to mean areas closed to all human activities, while others interpret them as special areas set aside for recreation (e.g., national parks) or to sustain commercial use (e.g., fishery management areas). These are just a few examples of the many types of MPAs.

The majority of marine protected areas in the United States are multiple-use sites, meaning fishing, boating, surfing, diving, and other recreational activities are allowed.

“Marine protected area” is a term that encompasses a variety of conservation and management methods in the United States. They  span a range of habitats, including the open ocean, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, estuaries, and the Great Lakes.

They also vary widely in purpose, legal authorities, agencies, management approaches, level of protection, and restrictions on human uses.


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Alaska Marine Parks

In 1983, the first Alaska marine park opened near Juneau as part of an international system extending from Washington through British Columbia to Alaska.

This system provides boat owners and water enthusiasts access to coastal environments with protected anchorages. The marine park system expanded in 1990 to include seven parks in the Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay area.