Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Protecting Marine Ecosystems

Ocean Zoning

A radar station
A recreational fishing vessel fishing off an oil rig. Image: NOAA

MCBI is examining comprehensive spatial management or ocean zoning as an ecosystem-based management framework in US waters.  Ocean zoning would fundamentally change the way we govern the sea, from the current activity- or species-based approach to a place-based approach.  It would use peoples’ understanding of the differences among ecosystems and human interests to reduce harm to the sea while reducing conflicts.  Fishes and fishermen, sea turtles and coastal property owners would all benefit. 

Past approaches — letting anybody do whatever they want no matter how it harms our oceans and managing species one-by-one — have failed to maintain the sea’s biodiversity.  This sectoral approach only led to each of the separate groups exploiting the sea’s resources as much as possible without considering the consequences of their actions for the rest of the ocean.

Ocean zoning would fundamentally change the way we govern the sea.  This concept is not new.  Nations as diverse as Australia, Belgium and China are already using ecosystem-based management techniques to improve their ocean management. 

It is time for the U.S. to follow suit.  Through scientific working groups, symposia, book chapters, scientific papers and lectures, as well as supporting ocean zoning efforts on the West Coast, MCBI works towards our goal of using ocean zoning to achieve effective ecosystem-based management.


Our Work on Ocean Zoning:

AtlasThe California Ocean Uses Atlas Project - Mapping the full range of significant human uses of the ocean in state and federal waters of the coast of California. The California Ocean Uses Atlas Project is an innovative public-private partnership between NOAA’s Marine Protected Areas Center and Marine Conservation Biology Institute.


Presidential SealScientists' Letter to the President on National Ocean Policy - Tha Nation's leading marine scientists ask President Obama to make conservation the center of his new National Ocean Policy.

AtlasMCBI's History and Accomplishments in Marine Spatial Management - Protecting our most pristine coral reefs.

AtlasSiting Offshore Renewable Energy - Determining where to put offshore renewable energy to maximize bennefit and minimize neagtive impacts to marine ecosystems.




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 Sanctuaries, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and on North America’s Pacific coast.