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  • Marine Protected Area—a discrete geographic area that has been designated to enhance the conservation of marine and coastal resources and is managed by an integrated plan that includes MPA-wide restrictions on some activities such as oil and gas extraction and higher levels of protection on delimited zones, designated as fishery and ecological reserves within the MPA (see below). Examples include the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and marine areas in the National Park system, such as Glacier Bay.

  • Marine Reserve—a zone in which some or all of the biological resources are protected from removal or disturbance. This includes reserves established to protect threatened or endangered species and the more specific categories of fishery and ecological reserves described below.

  • Fishery Reserve—a zone that precludes fishing activity on some or all species to protect critical habitat, rebuild stocks (long-term, but not necessarily permanent, closure), provide insurance against overfishing, or enhance fishery yield. Examples include Closed Areas I and II on Georges Bank, implemented to protect groundfish.

  • Ecological Reserve—a zone that protects all living marine resources through prohibitions on fishing and the removal or disturbance of any living or non-living marine resource, except as necessary for monitoring or research to evaluate reserve effectiveness. Access and recreational activities may be restricted to prevent damage to the resources. Other terms that have been used to describe this type of reserve include “no-take” zones and fully-protected areas. The Western Sambos Reserve in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary provides an example of this type of zoning.

Defining the goals and objectives from among the myriad that may exist is a prerequisite for determining the appropriate level of protection for an MPA (Agardy, 1997; Allison et al., 1998). The objectives must be clear with respect to expectations of performance and the degree to which human activities, including extractive uses and tourism, must be restricted to achieve goals. Promoting fishery management goals and objectives may require different criteria for designating and implementing MPAs, than for protecting unique habitats or biological diversity.

Decisions regarding location, size, and linkages between MPAs and other components of ecosystems must be considered. Adopting MPAs as a major management tool will require a shift in management emphasis from single-species management to spatial management. Oceanographic features, bathymetry, hydrography, and the transport of organisms into or out of MPAs can be critical factors in MPA design. The human element, including stakeholder involvement in the planning and implementation stages for MPAs, is critical in determining whether an MPA will successfully meet its objectives or whether it will result in resentment and noncompliance by individuals and communities that face restrictions on current and future uses.

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