US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Framework for the National System of MPAs

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The Framework for the National System of Marine Protected Areas of the United States of America (November 2008) provides comprehensive national goals and flexible guidance for a variety of partnerships among federal, state, tribal, and local governments and stakeholders to develop an effective national system. It provides guidance for how existing MPA sites, programs, and stakeholders can work together at regional, national and international levels, with public participation, to achieve common conservation objectives through comprehensive MPA planning, identification of enhanced or new MPAs that may be needed, and support for improved MPA science, stewardship and effectiveness.

The Framework outlines the following key components of the national system:

  • National system goals and priority conservation objectives
  • MPA eligibility criteria and other key definitions
  • Design and implementation principles
  • A nomination process for existing MPAs to be included in the national system
  • Science-based, public processes for identifying natural and cultural resource conservation gaps in the national system
  • A process for improving regional and ecosystem-based coordination of MPAs
  • Mechanisms for national, regional, and international coordination
  • Implementation guidance regarding federal agency responsibilities to avoid harm to resources protected by the national system of MPAs
  • Mechanisms for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on national system progress and priorities

The Framework was developed over several years with extensive involvement from MPA programs and stakeholders, including the MPA Federal Advisory Committee. Click here for information on the Framework development process.

Download the National MPA System Framework

You can download the entire draft framework document, or download it in sections:

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If you are having trouble downloading the Framework, try right-clicking the link you'd like to view and select "Save Target As..." to save to your computer. If you are still experiencing problems, please send an email to with the subject line "Framework Request".

Framework Cover

Framework for the National System of MPAs (full text, 92 pages)
Summary of Framework for the National System of MPAs (3 pages)
Framework for Developing the National System of MPAs without Appendices (60 pages)

  1. Acronyms and Abbreviations
  2. Existing U.S. MPA Programs, Federal MPA Initiatives, Tribal, and International Efforts
  3. Programmatic Environmental Assessment
  4. Executive Order 13158
  5. MPA FAC and Ex Officio Members, and the Federal MPA Interagency Working Group

Other National MPA System Resources:

Developing the National System of MPAs: Highlights
The National System of MPAs: Snapshot of United States MPAs
MPA Executive Order 13158
Benefits of a National System of MPAs
Priority Conservation Objectives Fact Sheet
Fact Sheets
MPA Executive Order 13158

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