NOAA analysis catalogs marine-protected areas

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New analysis of updated data shows that although 8 percent of U.S waters are designated as marine protected areas, the majority of these areas are open to fishing and other activities.

That’s according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has cataloged marine protected areas on its website.

"These data show that the U.S. has a representative network of MPAs, both geographically and for different purposes, and 8 percent is good progress,” National Marine Protected Areas Center acting director Lauren Wenzel said in a statement. “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.”

NOAA said the 8 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 that include 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.

NOAA said 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 the sites focus on sustainable production, such as those established to recover overfished stocks, protect species readily taken as bycatch or preserve essential fish habitats; the remaining approximately 10 percent were established to conserve the country’s cultural heritage.

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