US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Nominating MPAs to the National System of Marine Protected Areas

  > National System  > Nomination Process

MPA programs are invited annually to nominate their eligible sites to be part of the national system of MPAs. The national system of MPAs includes MPA sites, networks and systems established and managed by all levels of government that work together to achieve common marine conservation goals. The national system does not bring state, territorial or local sites under federal authority, nor does it restrict or change the management of any MPA. The next nomination process will be in early 2014.

Entry Criteria

All sites must meet the following four criteria:

  1. Meets the definition of an MPA as defined in the Final Framework
  2. Has a management plan (can be site-specific or part of a broader programmatic management plan)
  3. Contributes to at least one priority conservation objective as listed in the Framework
  4. In addition, cultural heritage MPAs must meet additional cultural heritage requirements (see Framework, pages 18-21).

Nomination Process

  • The MPA Center will use existing information in the MPA Inventory to identify potentially eligible MPAs, and they will be invited to nominate their sites. Sites and programs are welcome to enquire about their eligibility status.
  • Managing entities submit a nomination form for each nominated MPA to the MPA Center.
  • A list of nominated sites will be published in a Federal Register notice and posted on for public comment period. .
  • Based on public comment, managing entities will reaffirm or withdraw their nominations.
  • After final MPA Center review, mutually agreed upon MPAs will be accepted into the national system.
  • MPAs accepted into the national system will be listed in the official List of National System MPAs, which will be announced in the Federal Register and on

Frequently Asked Questions about Joining the National System of MPAs


Benefits of the National System of MPAs
MPA Executive Order 13158
Framework for the National System of MPAs
Nomination Process Fact Sheet
Marine Protected Areas Inventory

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