SeaStates Report on North America's Marine Protected Areas
The key question we address in this report is “how well are Canada, Mexico and the USA doing individually and collectively in protecting ocean ecosystems in North America by establishing effective marine protected areas (MPAs)?”
Based on our analysis, our overall conclusion is that there remains a long way to go in reaching national and international targets to protect at least 10% of the ocean estate in North American countries. Overall, less than 1% of continental* North America’s ocean estate is protected and only 0.04% is in fully protected areas that scientists say offer the best hope to protect ocean ecosystems for the long term.
The ocean estate of continental North America (slightly over 15 million km2 ) is characterized by an incredible variety of ecosystems ranging from the ice covered regions of the high Arctic Ocean, to the rich temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the tropical coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea. The diversity of marine life ranges from the smallest plankton to the largest whales, and includes seabirds, turtles, fishes and many more species. From the endangered Vaquita in the Gulf of California to the globally unique glass sponge reefs on Canada’s Pacific coast, many species require urgent protection from a variety of human related threats.
While reaching the 10% marine protected area coverage target is an important next step, recent scientific evidence indicates that we need to go much further if we are to restore the health of the ocean—at least 30% needs to be placed within fully protected areas where industrial uses, including commercial fishing are precluded. In light of the biodiversity crisis on Earth, scientists have highlighted the need to establish interconnected networks of protected areas that leaves at least half of the earth for nature to thrive for generations to come, and in doing so ensuring that our needs are met too.