In the United States there are currently 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and 2 National Marine Monuments that together cover 600,000 square miles of marine and freshwater environments – roughly the size of Mongolia. These sanctuaries and monuments, over the course of a year, generate around $8 billion for coastal communities through activities like commercial fishing, research, education, recreation and tourism. Yet these areas are widely misunderstood, putting their very existence in jeopardy. "Marine Sanctuaries and Monuments have a long history of success going back decades and with a stroke of a pen they could be undone, so that’s a real concern," explains co-author Larry Crowder, the Edward Ricketts Provostial Professor of Marine Ecology and Conservation at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station.
A policy article published Wednesday in Frontiers in Marine Science, Safe Harbors: The case for marine monuments and sanctuaries, outlines the ecological and economic benefits that support the creation and care of marine sanctuaries and monuments. The brief both outlines the legal mandates for conservation, derived from the public trust doctrine and stipulated under the Antiquities and National Marine Sanctuaries Acts, and describes the wide range of environmental and economic benefits that sanctuaries and marine monuments provide to commercial fishermen, tourism and recreation, and other local and regional businesses.
"The purpose of this paper was to raise this issue, in the public eye, to clarify what sanctuaries and monuments do and why they were established, " Crowder explains. Whitley Saumweber, co-author and Stanford affiliated researcher adds, “Setting aside protected marine areas is a critical piece in sustainable marine management and strengthening coastal communities. It is vitally important that the public understands the full value of these protected spaces both for sustainable marine management and also for the many coastal communities they support. We hope this paper helps people realize this value and encourages engagement to protect our important ocean heritage."
Header Photo Credit: Erin Spencer