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8% of U.S. marine waters protected

Vast majority allows fishing and other activities.
  Filephoto: NOAA
New data has shown that eight percent of U.S. waters are currently designated as marine protected areas (MPAs), with the vast majority of these areas open to fishing and other activities, according to NOAA.
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"These data show that the U.S. has a representative network of MPAs, both geographically and for different purposes, and eight percent is good progress,” says Lauren Wenzel, acting director of the National Marine Protected Areas Center. “We need to make sure that we’ve protected examples of all of our diverse ecosystems and habitats and that existing MPAs are effectively managed.”

The eight percent figure does not include MPAs specifically established to sustain fisheries production, which often have specific restrictions on fishing gear over large ocean areas. Other inventory analyses including these fishery MPAs, however, show that 92 percent of the area within U.S. MPAs allows some type of activity, and 85 percent is open to fishing.

The analysis also showed that more than two-thirds of all U.S. MPAs were created, at least in part, to conserve natural heritage values, such as biodiversity, ecosystems, or protected species. About a quarter of sites focus on sustainable production, such as those established to recover overfished stocks, protect species readily taken as bycatch, or preserve essential fish habitats, while the remaining approximately ten percent were established to conserve our nation’s cultural heritage.

Source: NOAA news release

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