This week the National Marine Protected Areas Center, a tiny division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was scheduled to release an eight-page fact sheet titled “Marine Reserves in the United States.” Lauren Wenzel, the center’s director, was kind enough to send me an advance copy.
It’s a telling document. The brief report confirms what ocean advocates have been saying for years: Far too little of America’s ocean areas are protected. A little more than 3 percent of U.S. territorial waters — 381,969 square kilometers — are protected at the highest level as marine reserves. But 95 percent of that area is contained in a single reserve, the 363,680-square-kilometer Papahānaumokuākea National Monument (formerly known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument) created by President George W. Bush in 2006. Without Papahānaumokuākea, marine reserves make up only one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. waters.