Like designations on land, protections for the open ocean include a host of confusing names, including marine reserve, marine sanctuary, and marine protected area. What’s the difference between them?
Marine protected area is the catch-all term for any geographic region in the ocean that has been designated to enhance the conservation of marine resources. No oil drilling would be allowed in a marine protected area, for example. Marine reserves and marine sanctuaries are more protective, but they typically still allow commercial fishing. Gray’s Reef Marine Sanctuary, located north of Cumberland Island near Sapelo, still allows commercial fishing to the dismay of many conservationists.
The strongest protection is a no-take marine reserve, which is off-limits to commercial fishing. No trawling is allowed. While commercial fisheries often oppose n-take marine reserves, they actually are the best way to help fisheries. SOme of the best, healthiest, most abundant, and vigorous fisheries are located along the boundaries of no-take marine reserves, because these areas allow overfished, depleted marine species to recover. They also provide refuges for endangered sea turtles, whales, and other marine life.
The waters offshore from Cumberland Island are ideal for a no-take marine reserve. Shrimp and fisheries have collapsed in the area, and endangered sea turtles congregate in these waters. Endangered right whales also gather here to give birth each year. Only 350 right whales are left on this planet, and they all return to Cumberland’s offshore waters each winter.
If you care about healthy fisheries and a healthy ocean, please sign our petition on the home page to create a no-take marine reserve offshore from Cumberland. Water wilderness is the next frontier. Marine reserves are the most important step we can take to ensuring vibrant oceans with whales and sea turtles instead of empty, overfished waters lined with drilling platforms.