Delivered at 2003 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium
The Ocean Conservancy mapped and evaluated the marine and coastal protected areas in the U.S. Gulf of Maine region (results published in a 2001 full-color report and companion poster). Over 300 sites in the U.S. portion of the Gulf, its coastal drainage area, and Georges Bank were analyzed, including Boston Harbor Islands. The full-color report and poster illustrate the results and recommends several actions.
The protected areas were analyzed in three ways to indirectly evaluate how effectively the sites conserve marine species, habitats, and ecological processes. First, protected areas with marine components were evaluated against the Protected Area Management Categories developed by IUCN—The World Conservation Union. Second, the areas were assessed for measures implemented within to limit or prohibit specific activities (such as alteration of shorelines and coastal habitats, non-renewable resource development, and disturbance of benthic habitats). Finally, sites were rated for their value in long-term conservation of marine biodiversity using a scoring system based on permanence of designation, size, and type, level, and seasonality of protections provided.
All three analyses demonstrated that existing marine and coastal protected areas provide some important protections for endangered species and reduce the impacts of human activities on species and habitats. However, very few sites are designed or managed to provide comprehensive, lasting protection to the full range of marine species and habitats. The strongest protections are concentrated in small, scattered coastal sites, and the vast majority of Gulf of Maine waters lack protected areas of any kind.