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Biologists and conservationists maintain that establishing marine reserves — areas where fishing is off-limits or severely restricted — offers the best hope for recovery for our overstressed oceans. So why is such a small area of the world’s oceans protected?

by Bruce Barcott. Yale Environment 360

This week the National Marine Protected Areas Center, a tiny division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was scheduled to release an eight-page fact sheet titled “Marine Reserves in the United States.” Lauren Wenzel, the center’s director, was kind enough to send me an advance copy.

Photo by Jeff Hunter After Hawaii established no-collection zones in 2000, the density of yellow tangs increased by 57 percent.

It’s a telling document. The brief report confirms what ocean advocates have been saying for years: Far too little of America’s ocean areas are protected. A little more than 3 percent of U.S. territorial waters — 381,969 square kilometers — are protected at the highest level as marine reserves. But 95 percent of that area is contained in a single reserve, the 363,680-square-kilometer Papahānaumokuākea National Monument (formerly known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument) created by President George W. Bush in 2006. Without Papahānaumokuākea, marine reserves make up only one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S.  waters. Read the Full article