The 1st-ever quantitative, scientifically rigorous national ranking of states’ protection of their ocean waters, SeaStates: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters?, shows that most states and territories are failing to safeguard our nation’s marine life, seafood and coasts.
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.
“Despite so many threats to their health, states are failing to protect our ocean waters,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President of the Marine Conservation Institute. “No-take marine protected areas are the gold-standard for healthy oceans, but far too few states and territories are designating them.”
SeaStates measures the percentage of state’s waters they strongly protect. 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.
“Whether you love our oceans for their beauty, for their fishes and marine mammals, or for generating half of the oxygen we breathe, you should want them to be strongly protected. But most states in this report get a score of zero and only a handful are protecting even 1%. That’s not good enough when our oceans are facing grave threats like overfishing and pollution. America’s oceans and people deserve better,” said eminent marine biologist and President of Mission Blue, Dr. Sylvia Earle. “The United States has a long way to go if we want to be a world-leader in marine conservation.”