A Word from our President

SeaStates: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters?

On May 29th, along with our colleagues at Mission Blue, we released the 1st-ever scientifically rigorous national ranking of states’ protection of their ocean waters. SeaStates: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters? quantified the amount of area that states and territories safeguard in fully protected areas. The results show that most are failing to our nation’s marine life, and there for our beaches, coasts and seafood for us and future generations.

Oceans are crucial to our health and economy. Coastal counties include only 5.71% of the area in the lower 48 states but generate 35.54% of the Gross Domestic Product. Indeed, coastal counties generate $7,992 more GDP per person than inland and Great Lakes counties.

SeaStates measures the percentage of state’s waters they strongly protect. No-take marine reserves are the gold-standard for healthy oceans, but far too few states and territories are designating them. Being free from fishing, oil drilling and other extractive uses allows marine life in no-take marine reserves to thrive and recover their former abundance. That’s crucial because marine animals and plants maintain healthy oceans essential to people. As coastal areas face increasing overfishing and climate change, strong marine protected areas maintain biodiversity, fisheries and coastal economies. Dozens of studies show that no-take marine reserves provide more effective protection than weaker protected areas, often providing an overflow of marine life into surrounding waters. Many marine scientists recommend designating at least 20% of state waters as no-take areas as the best way to sustain ocean health.

SeaStates shows that 15 coastal states (AL, AK, CT, DE, GA, LA, MD, MA, MS, NH, NJ, NY, RI, SC, TX) out of 23 have no (zero) no-take areas. Six states (FL, OR, WA, NC, VA, and ME) have designated barely 1% or much less of their coastal waters as no-take areas. Only 2 states strongly protect over 5% of their waters in no-take reserves. Hawaii ranks 1st for ocean protection with 22.9% fully protected (most inside the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument), while California ranks 2nd with 8.7%.

Very few states are getting the protection they need.  Seabirds, whales, groupers and deep sea corals all need refuges where we do everything possible to protect them.

I am very proud of our team of scientists at the Marine Conservation Institute whom compiled and produced SeaStates.  It provides a much clearer picture of the state of protection in the US, and from this we can have a conversation about the level of protection we want for our oceans now and in the future.  

To read the full report visit www.seastates.us

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