RELEASE: U.S. Should Protect More of its Oceans to Help Save Fisheries and Ocean Ecosystems, CAP Analysis Says

Washington, D.C. — The United States should protect more of its oceans to sustain domestic fisheries and help ocean ecosystems adapt to the effects of climate change and other threats, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress.

The brief urges the United States to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) that would protect 30 percent of the ocean area in each of several major geographic regions, including the Gulf of Mexico, the mid-Atlantic, and the North Pacific.

“The fact is that the vast majority of U.S. waters outside the remote Pacific have relatively minimal protection,” said Miriam Goldstein, managing director for Energy and Environment Policy and the director of Ocean Policy at CAP and a co-author of the issue brief. “Our focus should be on ensuring that all key ocean regions and ecosystems are protected.”

Currently, MPAs in the United States are dominated by a few very large, remote monuments. The report found that over 97 percent of all U.S. MPA area is located in the remote Pacific — far from the bulk of the U.S. population — and that 70 percent of U.S. MPAs are smaller than the city of Washington, D.C. The report argues that the United States should protect 30 percent of each major ocean region in order to conserve fisheries and unique habitats.

Highly to fully protected MPAs have been shown to foster greater biodiversity, which improves overall ecosystem health and productivity. This helps ecosystems withstand stress events associated with climate change and recover more quickly afterwards. Globally, MPAs have also brought a considerable return on investment from increased tourism and higher profits in neighboring fisheries.

Read the issue brief: “How Marine Protected Areas Help Fisheries and Ocean Ecosystems” by Margaret Cooney, Miriam Goldstein, and Emma Shapiro.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at  or 202.478.6327.