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rine heritage. At the federal level, these agencies would include the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Marine Sanctuaries, and National Estuarine Research Reserves (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the National Estuary Program (Environmental Protection Agency), the Fish and Wild-life Service, and the National Park Service (Department of the Interior) established under federal legislation, and equivalent agencies at the level of the states and territories. Existing programs should be used both as starting points in establishing a comprehensive system of MPAs and as vehicles for monitoring and evaluating the impacts of MPAs and reserves on fisheries, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning.
The potential economic and ecological benefits of marine reserves and protected areas will not be realized without a sufficient commitment to enforcement and monitoring. To maintain programmatic integrity and public support for marine reserves and protected areas, it is necessary that sufficient regulatory authority and funds for enforcement, research, and monitoring be provided to implement management plans. Effective enforcement of reserves is essential to sustain cooperation from the general public and affected user groups. Upgraded monitoring programs will ensure that robust data are collected for application both locally and regionally. Results from monitoring programs should be integrated with research programs for the evaluation of reserve performance and design of more effective marine reserves.
MPAs should be developed as a component of broader coastal zone and continental shelf management. This approach represents a shift toward more spatially explicit management of marine resources in recognition of the need to protect areas representative of the complete range of marine species and habitats. Finally, the management system should be adaptable so that the knowledge gained from research and monitoring can be applied to improve performance through more effective design.
Sufficient scientific information exists on the habitat requirements and life-history traits of many species to support the implementation of marine reserves and protected areas to improve management. Given the complexity of natural ecosystems and the broad range of conservation objectives, there are bound to be uncertainties about the optimal design of MPAs, particularly when they include ecological and fishery reserves. However, these uncertainties should not be used as an excuse for failing to take action. Even the most thorough studies of MPAs and reserves, or other management tools, will not eliminate uncertainties with respect to performance. Rather, optimization in the design of MPAs and reserves will depend on an iterative process that combines careful planning with experience. Prevention of the continuing erosion of quality in the marine environment is a shared global concern that requires fresh approaches to management, including MPAs. MPAs, including marine reserves, should be more broadly implemented to improve management of the marine environment and ensure that future generations will benefit from the ocean's bounty.