Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in protecting marine biodiversity, today released a report that will be of interest to U.S. policy-makers and beach-goers this summer. Called SeaStates 2014: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters?, this second annual report reveals that most states and territories are failing to safeguard our nation’s marine life, seafood and coasts. California, the frontrunner of all the states, strongly protects over 5% of their waters in no-take reserves. However, all of the states and territories, including California, fall far below the 20% level that is needed for productive ecosystems and only a few are making any progress whatsoever. Strongly protected marine areas are needed to ensure the abundance and resilience of our oceans, not only in U.S. waters, but worldwide.
The states and territories with the best marine protections are American Samoa, California and the US Virgin Islands. Oregon made progress since 2013 with the addition of two new no-take reserves, while American Samoa saw increases in protection due to new regulations at Rose Atoll.
Five states (FL, WA, HI, VA, NC) have designated up to 1% of their coastal waters as no-take areas.
Hawaii ranks 10th overall with less than 1% of their waters designated as no-take reserves within the eight main Hawaiian Islands, where nearly all of the state’s population resides. However, nearly 22.7% of the entire Hawaiian archipelago is protected in no-take reserves due to the federally appointed Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in its northwestern waters.
Several Coastal States Do Not Have Any No-Take Marine Areas
SeaStates 2014 shows that 16 coastal states (AL, AK, CT, DE, GA, LA, ME, MD, MA, MS, NH, NJ, NY, RI, SC, TX) have still not protected any of their waters with no-take marine areas.
“It is crazy that, in this country, states aren’t doing more to protect such a critical resource,” said Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute. “We rely on our oceans for so many things including food, to absorb carbon dioxide in the air, economic gains and more. It is ludicrous to treat the oceans as if they are an endless resource that we can continue to harm at will.”
Many coastal states and territories have established some level of protected areas, but the protection is often weak or temporary. In contrast, no-take marine reserves—marine protected areas that are free from fishing, mining and oil and gas development—are the highest standard. They allow the oceans to recover biodiversity and abundance, and export marine life to surrounding and remote areas.
Marine Conservation Institute compiled SeaStates 2014 using MPAtlas.org, an interactive resource to learn more about marine protected areas around the world that includes specifics about their protection status, general history, human-use information and contact details.
This year, Marine Conservation Institute’s science team expanded its analysis to waters of the broader U.S. exclusive economic zone in response to feedback in 2013 that while the state waters may not have no-take areas, the offshore federal waters were better protected. They found that, while there are a large number of fishing restrictions in the exclusive economic zone, only the Pacific Islands (with 6.47% no-take area) and the Southeast Region (with 0.02% no-take area) protect more than 1 square mile of area in their exclusive economic zone from human impacts for the purposes of conserving the ecosystem and the services it provides. The full SeaStates 2014 report can be found at: www.seastates.us
To recover the diversity and abundance of marine life, Marine Conservation Institute in October 2013 initiated the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced glôr-ees), a strategic, science-based way to safeguard marine ecosystems on a global scale. GLORES is designed to catalyze strong protection for at least 20% of the ecosystems in each marine biogeographic region by 2030, enough to avert mass extinction.
About Marine Conservation Institute
Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s goal is to help create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure the future diversity and abundance of marine life. Founded in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington DC. For more information, please go to: www.marine-conservation.org
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By the Sea Communications