Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Tatoosh Lighthouse (Olympic Coast Sanctuary, Washington)
Tatoosh Lighthouse (Olympic Coast Sanctuary, Washington) (NOAA Photo Library)

Marine protected areas (MPAs) and area-based management tools are mechanisms to protect a geographic or place-based area in the oceans. Over the last decade, countries, international organizations, environmental groups, and other entities have called for the establishment of networks of MPAs and for set percentages of the oceans to be declared as MPAs. Despite this seemingly common approach, there is no single approach for a MPA. There are multiple definitions of MPAs and they can have various objectives. MPAs can range from simple declarations of protection of a resource to extensively regulated areas. Since MPAs and area-based management tools are essentially geographically based, questions arise pertaining to such things as what can be done, where an activity can be done, and what types of regulations can be adopted and where they can apply. These types of questions necessarily call for a solid understanding and application of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. There are several types of MPAs that pertain specifically to shipping. These include Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs)Special Area DesignationsEmission Control Area DesignationAreas to be AvoidedNo Anchoring Areas, and Mandatory Ship Reporting Systems.

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