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NOAA report reviews ecosystem management in national marine sanctuaries

A new NOAA report assesses the role National Marine Sanctuaries play in helping implement ecosystem-based management practices in U.S. waters.

The report found the National Marine Sanctuary System's impact was significant due to its role developing tools that allow the participation of numerous stakeholders, address multiple uses, and provide guidance on how to protect habitat and biodiversity while minimizing user conflicts.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series report, "Examples of Ecosystem-based Management in National Marine Sanctuaries: Moving from Theory to Practice," presents eight case studies where strong ecosystem-based management principles were compared to guiding documents, co-management strategies, stakeholder involvement and marine zoning within the sanctuary system. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages 14 marine protected areas covering more than 150,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters.

The report notes that over the past 20 years, ecosystem-based management, which considers cumulative effects of different activities and interactions among species, emerged as an alternative to traditional single-species approaches for management of marine and coastal resources. Both the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy called on the U.S. to adopt ecosystem-based management as the foundation for a new era in ocean conservation.

With support from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, graduate students from eight universities participated in a Distributed Graduate Seminar that examined how Sanctuaries implement ecosystem-based management within their boundaries. The students found that in addition to regulatory actions, sanctuary managers utilized various tools and partner engagement to inform their decision-making.

"Our overarching goal is to provide guidance for resource managers to help them develop ecosystem-based management tools and best practices," said Robert Pavia, the project's co-principle investigator. "We also wanted to engage these students, who represent the next generation of marine managers, by letting them see the connection between theory and practice."


Contact: Vernon Smith
NOAA Headquarters

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