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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.

spacer Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
spacer Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
spacer South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
spacer Oculina Experimental Closed Area


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
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

View the Thunder Bay slide Show. View slide show.

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

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

View the Thunder Bay slide Show. View slide show.

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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experimental oculina research reserve
South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

View the Thunder Bay slide Show. View slide show.

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.


oculina coral and blue angel fish
Experimental Oculina Research Reserve

View the Thunder Bay slide Show. View slide show.

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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