Representativeness of Marine Protected Areas of the United States is the first comprehensive analysis of the degree to which MPAs generally, and MPAs in the National System of MPAs, represent the nation's diverse habitats, ecological features and ecologically important areas. The National System of MPAs is a tool for all MPA programs to work together on common management challenges. It is also intended to "represent diverse U.S. marine ecosystems." The report finds that every major marine ecoregion in the U.S., and all of the
key natural resource groups described in the MPA Inventory are represented (i.e. present) in an MPA that is a member of the National System. The report
also highlights key data gaps necessary for understanding the full representativeness and effectiveness of the nation's MPAs, such as spatial coverage of major marine habitats and detailed information on levels of protection within MPAs. Detailed analyses for each of the nation's marine ecoregions are also available.
From June to November 2014, the 14 Sanctuary Advisory Councils each formally endorsed the "Call to Action" on managing recreational uses developed by the MPA Federal Advisory Committee and the Sanctuary Advisory Council Chairs at their joint meeting in June 2014. This marks the first time these MPA advisory bodies have worked together on advice for managing the nation's MPAs. The "Call to Action" calls on the nation's ocean management agencies to work with local communities to: 1) invite people to play (responsibly) in MPAs; 2) embrace the human dimension of MPAs; 3) sustain MPA ecosystems and values; and 4) engage recreational users as ocean stewards. NOAA and DOI are now looking at ways to implement these recommendations, including through the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation.
President Obama's Administration is designating 9.8 million acres in the waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska's coast as off-limits to consideration for future oil and gas leasing. The President's action comes as the Department of the Interior releases its draft five-year program for offshore oil and gas leasing on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The areas designated as off-limits by the President include Alaskan coastal buffer and subsistence areas that have previously been excluded from leasing plans under both Democratic and Republican Administrations - as well as some critical additional areas like the biologically rich Hanna Shoal. This action builds on recent actions to protect rich fishing grounds from oil and gas development in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The Administration has also proposed additional protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. President Obama announced he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the refuge - including its Coastal Plain - as wilderness, the highest level of protection available to public lands. If Congress chooses to act, it would be the largest ever wilderness designation since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago.
The action builds upon years of public engagement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revise the Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan that will guide management decisions for the Refuge for the next 15 years. Based on the best available science and extensive public comment, the Service's preferred alternative recommends 12.28 million acres for designation as wilderness.
Currently, over 7 million acres of the refuge are managed as wilderness, consistent with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. However, more than 60 percent of the refuge - including the Coastal Plain - does not carry that designation. Only Congress has the authority to designate Wilderness areas.
In January, the Obama Administration also issued an Executive Order calling for federal agencies to coordinate more closely on Arctic issues.
The nation's ocean exploration vessel, NOAA's Okeanos Explorer, will join with other NOAA and external partners this year to initiate the Campaign to Address Pacific Monument Science, Technology, and Ocean NEeds (CAPSTONE) to collect baseline information supporting science and management requirements associated with U.S. marine national monuments and other protected places in the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the year, telepresence technology will allow the public to follow discoveries via the NOAA Ocean Explorer website.
Okeanos Explorer is the only federal vessel that systematically explores the ocean. It carries a suite of exploration systems and sensors including the Remotely Operated Vehicle Deep Discoverer (D2) which carries a minimum of six underwater video cameras, two of which are high-definition. D2 is rated to 6,000 meters.
This winter's MPA Center Webinar Series will include presentations on Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and climate change adaptation. This virtual series is held the second Thursday of each month from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern.