Washington International Law Journal


Marine Protected Areas ("MPAs") are increasingly recognized as a critical component of marine conservation. MPAs are areas of the marine ecosystem set aside for special protection and management in order to conserve biological or cultural resources. MPAs manage the use of marine resources by limiting or controlling activities within the area. Marine reserves, the most restrictive type of MPA, severely limit or forbid all extractive activities. Scientific research has demonstrated that MPAs, especially marine reserves, can have rapid and long-term benefits for biological diversity, lead to recovery of specific species, and may have a "spill over" effect that benefits adjacent unprotected areas. As a result, MPAs are rapidly becoming a widely used tool for marine conservation. Australia has the largest number of MPAs of any country in the world. It has also developed a significant national representative system of MPAs, covering approximately seven percent of Australian waters as of 2002. Australia's national representative system has been established through national legislation and cooperative agreements between the Commonwealth and the states. In addition, Australia has adopted a uniform zoning system so that all MPAs are designated and managed based on the same zones, to encourage consistency. In contrast, the current system of MPAs in the United States involves federal, state, and local areas and is inadequate, disorganized, and fractured. The United States has only recently begun to develop a national representative system of MPAs. The United States should model the structure of its national representative system of MPAs on the framework now used by Australia. The United States should also adopt a uniform zoning system to be applied universally to the federal MPA system, and to those MPAs implemented under the national representative system. A standardized zoning system would ease implementation and management of MPAs, particularly those in adjacent state and federal waters, and add consistency to the currently disorganized system of management.

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