Taking Steps Toward Marine Wilderness Protection? Fishing and Coral Reef Marine Reserves in Florida and Hawaii

112 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2008


Ask the average person to name the leading cause of marine ecosystem degradation, and he or she will likely answer pollution. Scientists, however, are in wide agreement that the most significant cause of marine ecosystem degradation is overfishing.

There is growing evidence that fishing drastically alters marine ecosystems and that marine wildernesses are necessary to preserve and restore the sea's natural function and biodiversity. To restore overfished stocks, marine managers worldwide are increasingly employing a regulatory device known as a marine protected area (MPA). However, because MPAs rely on geographical regulation rather than species-based regulation, they are also emerging as important regulatory tools for protecting marine ecosystems and marine biodiversity more generally.

Because of their popularity for both fishing and tourism and their geographical identifiability, coral reef ecosystems have been the focus for the creation of many MPAs and marine reserves. This article explores the ways in which fisheries goals and ecosystem goals have led to conflict in two large coral reef ecosystem MPAs in the United States: the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and its new Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve; and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve.

The article begins be discussing in depth the effects of overfishing on marine ecosystems, then explores the growing use of MPAs and marine reserves throughout the world, especially to protect coral reef ecosystems. The article concludes that, while Americans have shown themselves ready to accept increasingly large areas of marine wilderness protected through marine reserves when such reserves will directly enhance fisheries, conflicts between fisheries interests and environmental protection may thwart the creation of marine reserves when such fisheries and other economic benefits are absent or limited. As a result, there is a need for better articulated, biodiversity- and ecosystem service-related, nonconsumptive values for marine wildernesses.

Keywords: marine protected area, MPA, marine reserve, coral, ecosystem, biodiversity, Hawaii, Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Suggested Citation

Craig, Robin Kundis, Taking Steps Toward Marine Wilderness Protection? Fishing and Coral Reef Marine Reserves in Florida and Hawaii. McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 155-266, 2003, FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper Series, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1289250

Robin Kundis Craig (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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