NOAA Report Reviews Ecosystem Management in National Marine Sanctuaries

August 3, 2010

National Marine Sanctuaries have helped facilitate ecosystem-based management practices in U.S. waters by developing tools that balance marine conservation goals while minimizing conflicts between diverse marine interests, according to a new NOAA report.

Channel Islands map.

Channel Islands map.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

The National Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series report, “Examples of Ecosystem-based Management in National Marine Sanctuaries: From Theory to Practice,” found that across the sanctuary system, managers used various approaches to encourage stakeholder engagement and guide protection of marine habitats and biodiversity. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages 14 marine protected areas covering more than 150,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters.

The report presents eight case studies that show how ecosystem-based management principles were implemented in sanctuary-specific management and planning documents, co-management strategies, stakeholder engagement efforts, and marine spatial planning.

The report notes that over the past 20 years, ecosystem-based management, which considers cumulative effects of different activities and interactions among species, emerged as an alternative to traditional single-species approaches for management of marine and coastal resources. Both the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy called on the U.S. to adopt ecosystem-based management as the foundation for a new era in ocean conservation.

With support from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, graduate students from eight universities participated in a Distributed Graduate Seminar that examined how Sanctuaries implement ecosystem-based management within their boundaries. The students found that in addition to regulatory actions, sanctuary managers utilized various tools and partner engagement to inform their decision-making.

“Our overarching goal is to provide guidance for resource managers to help them develop ecosystem-based management tools and best practices,” said Robert Pavia, the project’s co-principle investigator. “We also wanted to engage these students, who represent the next generation of marine managers, by letting them see the connection between theory and practice.”

The full report is available online on the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries website.

Institutions that participated in the seminar include California State University, Monterey Bay; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Connecticut; University of Hawaii; University of Michigan; University of New Hampshire; University of South Florida; and the University of Washington.

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