Linking habitat protection and marine protected area programs to conserve coral reefs and associated back reef habitats

Duval, M.A.; Rader, D.N.; Lindeman, K.C.

Bulletin of: 321-334


Accession: 009898110

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A variety of mechanisms exist at the state, territorial, and federal level in the U.S. to protect habitats critical in the development of reef fish species. The most recently formulated are the Essential Fish Habitat designations in federal waters, in addition to various National Environmental Policy Act-associated and state-level permitting processes, as well as provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act and National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Similarly, several mechanisms are available to implement marine protected areas, including existing federal National Marine Sanctuary processes and varied Fishery Management Council initiatives under development. Linking habitat management and MPA implementation is critical to developing whole-ecosystem protection to threatened habitats and populations. Spatially explicit science remains key to coordinating such efforts as diverse stressors occur across the shelf from land- and water-based sources. However, fragmentation of jurisdictional authority significantly impacts the ability to institute effective protection. Solutions to this must include: (1) Filling critical personnel shortages at the field staff level, (2) development of integrated regulations for agencies with jurisdiction over marine fisheries, water quality and coastal development, and (3) dedicated money for monitoring and enforcement efforts as a prerequisite to implementation of management regimes.