National System of Marine Protected Areas

An osprey looking at the camera
An osprey at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Credit: USFWS

The United States has developed a national system of marine protected areas (MPAs) to connect and strengthen the nation's MPAs and MPA programs.  The national system is described in detail in the Framework for a National System of Marine Protected Areas for the United States.

The purpose of the National System is to build management capacity among MPA programs, coordinate collaborative efforts to address common management issues and identify ecosystem-based gaps in the protection of significant natural and cultural resources for possible future action by the nation's MPA authorities.  Questions?  Click here.

The goals of the national system are to conserve and manage:

  • Natural heritage – the nation's biological communities, habitats, ecosystems, and processes and the ecological services, values and uses they provide
  • Cultural heritage – cultural resources that reflect the nation's maritime history and traditional cultural connections to the sea, as well as the uses and values they provide
  • Sustainable production – the nation's renewable living resources and their habitats (including, but not limited to, spawning, mating, and nursery grounds and areas established to minimize bycatch of species) and the social, cultural and economic values and services they provide


List of National System Sites