EarthLabs > Fisheries > Lab 4: To Fish or Not to Fish? > 4A: The ABCs of MPAs

To Fish or Not to Fish?

Part A: The ABCs of MPAs

Dry Tortugas National Park, a marine protected area in the southeastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles west of the Florida Keys.

Protected areas are extremely important tools for maintaining biodiversity both on land and in the water. As ecosystems continue to be threatened or damagedin large part to human activity and its effectsprotected areas are vital for safeguarding plant and animal species and the natural resources they and local human communities depend on.

  1. Read The State of the Nation's Marine Managed Areas (Acrobat (PDF) 1.7MB Oct10 07) to learn the basics of Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

    Checking In

    Answer the following questions to check your understanding of MPA basics.

    • What criteria must be met in order for a site to be considered an MMA?
      • area: have legally defined boundaries
      • marine: be an area of ocean or coastal waters or the Great Lakes
      • reserved: be established by or currently subject to site-specific regulation
      • lasting: provide year-to-year protection for a minimum of two consecutive years
      • protection: have existing regulations that afford increased protection specifically to natural and/or cultural resources and qualities within the site
    • What is the official definition of a Marine Protected Area?
      An MPA is: "any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, tribal, territorial, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein."
    • Give three reasons why MPAs are important.
      • Provide recreation and economic opportunities for millions of Americans.
      • Help sustain critical habitats and marine resources for future generations to enjoy.
      • Act as an "insurance policy" by helping protect marine resources from human impacts.
    • Who establishes and manages MPAs?
      Marine protected areas are established at all levels of government for different purposes and are managed by various agencies through legislative acts.
    • How many marine managed areas are there in the U.S.?
      more than 1500

  2. Go through the alphabetical list of U.S. marine managed areas to find a protected area near your home town. Record the following information:
    • Site Name
    • Region
    • Managing Agency
    • Type of Site
    • Land and Water Area

  3. Click on the name of the site for additional information about the protected region. Write down any interesting additional information you find.

  4. Share the information you found with your classmates. Did you all choose the same marine managed area?

  5. Download and read the document A Functional Classification System for Marine Protected Areas in the U.S. (Acrobat (PDF) 168kB Oct3 07).

    Checking In

    Answer the following questions to check your understanding of the MPA classification system.

    • What are the five objective characteristics common to most MPAs?
      • Conservation Focus
      • Level of Protection
      • Permanence of Protection
      • Constancy of Protection
      • Ecological Scale of Protection
    • What are the three main types of conservation focus for MPAs?
      • Natural Heritage
      • Cultural Heritage
      • Sustainable Production
    • What are the six levels of protection assigned to MPAs?
      • Uniform Multiple-Use
      • Zoned Multiple-Use
      • Zoned Multiple-Use With No-Take Area(s)
      • No-Take
      • No Impact
      • No Access

    Stop and Think

    1:Create and describe a scenario in which there might be opposing views as to whether or not to create a Marine Protected Area. What type of conservation level does this proposed MPA have? What level of protection? What is the source of the controversy?

    Marine Protected Areas can be found all around the world, not just in the United States. Continue to Part B to learn about Mexico's Gulf of California, one of the world's richest ecosystems and foremost locations for marine conservation.