NOAA Launches Interactive Marine Protected Areas Mapping Tool

March 30, 2010

NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center has created a new interactive online mapping tool that, for the first time, allows users to view boundaries and access data for more than a thousand marine protected areas (MPAs) in the United States.

“Our staff gets calls from people who want to know more about the management of their local waters. This new mapping tool provides a snapshot of what activities are allowed and how people can get more information about MPAs,” said Joseph Uravitch, director of NOAA’s MPA Center. “The site brings together information from dozens of management agencies creating an efficient one-stop resource.” 

MPAs are conservation areas that include the marine environment, such as some National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, National Marine Sanctuaries and similar areas managed by state, local and tribal governments. The mapping tool allows users to view all the MPAs in a specific location or across an entire region, as well as search for specific attributes, including conservation purpose, managing agency and level of protection, among others.

“MPAs are an important tool in conserving our ocean and coastal resources which are vital to our nation’s environmental health and economy,” said David M. Kennedy, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

Data for the mapping tool comes from the newly updated MPA Inventory, a comprehensive database on existing U.S. MPAs. Originally launched in June 2008, the inventory contains a range of information on each of the 1,637 protected areas established or managed by federal, state, or territorial agencies or programs. Data was collected from most management agencies and programs and is current as of January 2010.  The mapping tool can be accessed at

Today’s launch of the MPA mapping tool is part of a broader update of the MPA Center’s Web site, the leading source for information about U.S. MPAs. Comprehensive information on ocean uses for the entire California coast is also available on the Web site through the Ocean Uses Atlas. This data was collected through a series of workshops that brought together resource managers, stakeholders and scientists to map patterns of human uses of the ocean in California. 

The Ocean Uses Atlas project is an innovative public-private partnership between NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Resources Legacy Fund, and fills a critical information gap in ocean management. Atlas data maps are available at

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