Case Study Of Marine

Case Studies

This collection of case studies represents a cross section of the different types of sites listed in the Marine Managed Area Inventory on this Web page. The case studies examine the history behind a site's designation as a marine managed area, discuss the techniques used to manage the site's resources, and identify major management issues facing the site. The case studies include two national marine sanctuaries, one managed for its biological value and one for its cultural resources, a national estuarine research reserve, and an experimental fisheries management area. Eventually, case studies for each type of federally managed site and different varieties of state and territorial sites will be included.


A special feature of each case study is a narrated slide show that captures the beauty, uses, and management issues associated with each marine protected area. Click on the camera icon (
) to view the slide show for a specific case study.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

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The waters and bottom lands of Lake Huron's Thunder Bay were designated as a national marine sanctuary in 2000 to protect the many shipwrecks of the region. In petitioning the state and federal governments to protect this area, residents of the nearby city of Alpena, Michigan recognized the cultural value of these vessels that represent a significant collection of maritime history. However, loss of local control of the area was also a concern of many citizens. These concerns helped to forge a unique management partnership for the newest national marine sanctuary.


Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

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The Florida Keys island chain supports an offshore marine ecosystem that is the most extensive living coral reef in the United States and the third largest barrier reef in the world. The beauty and climate of this region has attracted explorers, settlers, and tourists for centuries. With them came damage to reefs, seagrass beds, water quality and fisheries of the region. A groundswell of public sentiment for protecting the archipelago's offshore reefs culminated in 1990 when an act of Congress designated 2800 square nautical miles of state and federal waters as a national marine sanctuary. Innovative management techniques, such as marine zoning, are at work in the Keys, helping to protect and restore its natural resources.

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South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

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The South Slough of Oregon's Coos Bay estuary benefited from a wave of public sentiment supporting environmental stewardship when it was first designated a national estuarine research reserve in 1974. Some areas surrounding the estuary had been heavily logged at the time, and some wetland areas had been diked. However, supporters of the reserve envisioned the area reverting to a more pristine and natural condition, offering enhanced protection to marine and estuarine species. Since the creation of the reserve, management plans have sought to restrict the most intensive commercial uses and restore natural processes, while ensuring that South Slough is available for public recreational use.


Experimental Oculina Research Reserve

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A unique and fragile ivory tree coral—Oculina varicosa—characterizes the Experimental Oculina Research Reserve (EORR), located fifteen to thirty miles off the east coast of Florida. The habitat was once associated with extraordinarily-rich biodiversity. By the early 1990s, however, this deep-sea coral habitat was virtually decimated in many places, probably the result of destructive and unchecked fishing practices, though other causes have been implicated as well. Currently, the EORR is closed to fishing and other activities as scientists attempt to reestablish the Oculina habitat and replenish the fisheries.




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The implementation of a national policy to achieve sustainable exploitation levels by restricting access to areas of the coastal seabed in Chile required a substantial investment in capacity-building for the training of fishers, technicians (such as divers and marine technical personnel), and graduate and undergraduate students who contributed to the scientific knowledge base.

The Chilean Fisheries and Aquaculture Law of 1991 defines artisanal fishers and incorporates new regulations that affect user rights through three management components: allocation of exclusive fishing rights within five nautical miles of the shoreline to artisanal fishers, restriction of artisanal fishers’ access to the coastal zone adjacent to their regions of residence, and allocation of exclusive benthic-resource extractive rights in given areas of the seabed to organized unions, associations, cooperatives, and registered artisanal fishers.

It took about 20 years to complete the full development and implementation of small-scale comanagement policies regarding the benthic resources of a subset of some 250 small-scale fishers in central Chile. During that time, the total investment was US$5.5 million, which supported the training of roughly 300 small-scale fishers, 28 technicians (such as divers and marine technical personnel), 4 doctoral and 2 masters candidates, and 34 undergraduate students.

Researchers in central Chile studied the fisheries and ecosystems to understand restocking rates of benthic resources after area closures and facilitated the legal institutionalization of exclusive territorial user rights for fisheries for two artisanal associations (Caleta Quintay and Caleta el Quisco) and a no-take reserve (EstaciĆ³n Costera de Investigaciones Marinas in Las Cruces), which was established in 1982. This small initial project was the basis of expansion to more than 500 MEABRs, including more than 15,000 fishers along the Chilean coast.

The measures have increased fishing income, retained and enhanced community and cultural identity, and served as a basis of community empowerment.

Four elements contributed to the success of the effort:

  • The existence of a well-organized system of artisanal fishing communities and national artisanal fisheries associations.
  • Successes in the experimental pilot cases and the ability of fishing communities to replicate the successful examples.
  • A clear set of rules and the existence of local know-how and technical capacities to expand the implementation of MEABRs.
  • Research and publications by scientists who received substantial financial resources from Chile and abroad.

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