Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Protecting Marine Ecoystems

Marine Protected Areas Executive Order

When MCBI was established in 1996, it essentially stood alone among national marine advocacy organizations in taking a place-based approach to ocean conservation through marine protected areas (MPAs). MCBI viewed MPA’s as a tool emerging in prominence in marine conservation , an observation  stemming from our unique ties with the scientific community. In 1997 ,  MPAs attracted more interest than any other issue at MCBI’s first Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology in Victoria BC.

whale pic
(Photo: NMFS)

Starting in 1999, Dr. Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University and West Coast colleagues started a seminal study on ‘The Theory of Marine Reserve Design for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis’ in Santa Barbara. In addition, MCBI worked with Congress to fund a National Research Council study on MPAs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) appropriations bill. Clearly, a growing number of scientists felt it was time for this under-appreciated tool to play a much larger role in marine conservation.

Thus, in January 2000, MCBI convened a workshop of natural and social scientists on marine protected areas — particularly fully protected areas or marine reserves — as a way to protect against threats to marine biodiversity. In partnership with the Cousteau Society, the “Establishing a National System of Marine Protected Areas in the United States” workshop held in Washington DC brought together leading thinkers from Australia, the Philippines, UK, Canada and USA.

Scientists from the workshop concluded that the President of the US should  issue an Executive Order to establish of a comprehensive national system of MPAs.

The participants produced an unprecedented set of recommendations calling for the immediate establishment of a federal process to create a comprehensive national system of marine protected areas. The workshop participants also submitted detailed criteria for the design and management of the proposed system.Recommendations to President Clinton and Vice President Gore can be found in Safeguarding America's Seas: Establishing a National System of Marine Protected Areas [PDF].

Immediately following the workshop, MCBI drafted a letter to the President and Vice President calling upon them to issue an Executive Order to establish a national system of marine protected areas fully protecting 20% of the US EEZ by 2015. After much follow-up by MCBI staff, in May 2001, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13158, calling for a national system of MPAs.

MCBI continues to work hard to turn the Executive Order from a skeletal framework into programs, positions and dollars. We are now joined by other major NGOs in the marine conservation community in our efforts to make MPAs a primary tool for marine conservation. One positive result thus far, is the creation of NOAA's MPA Science Center in Santa Cruz, whose role is to encourage scientifically sound work pertaining to US MPAs.





Learn More – See MCBI’s past and present efforts to strengthen place-based management of marine resources in the Gulf of Maine, in National Marine Sancatuaries, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and on North America’s Pacific coast.