The Disappointing History of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act
48 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2007
This article considers the history of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA), a little-known federal statute. Congress enacted the act amid grand rhetoric, which suggested an intention to provide broad protection to the United States' oceans, but implementation of the act fell well short of those declarations of intent. While some areas have been protected from some environmental threats, the protection that now exists is geographically limited and often legally weak, and the process of designating sanctuaries proceeded only with significant additional Congressional intervention. This article analyzes the history of the NMSA and the marine sanctuaries program, and then traces the struggles of the program to the terms of the NMSA itself. It concludes that the act's structure, while potentially minimizing controversy and providing political wins for individual members of Congress, all but ensured that the program as a whole would take limited effect. The NMSA therefore provides a cautionary example of ways in which statutory drafting can prevent implementation of environmental laws from achieving statutory goals.
Keywords: National Marine Sanctuaries Act, marine, sanctuaries, ocean
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