SeaStates 2013: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters?

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Here, using publicly available information, the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue present the first scientifically rigorous quantitative account of no-take marine reserves in the waters of US coastal states and territories.

All people depend on services and goods that living oceans provide, but human activities now threaten marine life and, hence, our lives. Marine biologists recommend creating strong marine protected areas (MPAs) to safeguard life within them and to benefit people outside them. Many coastal states and territories have established at least some protected areas, but this protection is often weak or temporary, with fewer benefits to people. In contrast, no-take marine reserves—MPAs free from fishing, mining and oil & gas development—are the gold standard. They allow places in the sea to recover biodiversity and abundance, and export marine life to surrounding and remote areas.

Our finding: Few states provide strong protection for marine ecosystems. There is much room for improvement.

The best-protected states and territories are Hawaii, California and the US Virgin Islands. Hawaii protects 22.94% of its state marine waters as no-take reserves; California 8.74% and USVI 5.69%. These states and territories deserve our appreciation and our business. A few protect very small amounts of their coastal waters, roughly 1% or less (Florida, Puerto Rico, Oregon, CNMI, Guam, Washington, North Carolina, Virginia and Maine). Fifteen coastal states, including Alaska, Mississippi, South Carolina, Delaware and Massachusetts, don’t yet strongly protect any of their marine waters. Citizens deserve to know which states are leaders and which aren’t doing enough to protect our beaches, coastal waters and seafood.

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