What is a Marine Protected Area?
A Marine Protected Area (MPA), as defined in Presidential Executive Order 13158 in 2000, is any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.
The South Atlantic Council further defines MPAs within its jurisdiction as a network of specific areas of marine environments reserved and managed for the primary
purpose of aiding in the recovery of overfished stocks and to ensure the persistence of healthy fish stocks, fisheries, and associated habitats. Such areas may include naturally occurring or artificial bottom and water column habitats, and may include prohibition of harvest on seasonal or permanent time periods to achieve desired fishery conservation and management goals.
Eight deepwater Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been established in the South Atlantic region through implementation of Amendment 14 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. The MPAs are designed to protect a portion of the long-lived, "deepwater" snapper grouper species such as snowy grouper, speckled hind, and blueline tilefish.
The MPAs range in size from 2 X 4 nautical miles to 10 X 15 nautical miles (see maps below). In addition to the seven areas that provide protection for natural habitat, the amendment creates a deepwater artificial reef MPA off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.
Regulations within MPAs (effective February 12, 2009):
- No fishing for or possession of any snapper grouper species.
- No shark bottom longline gear allowed.
- Vessels (both commercial and recreational) may transit (direct, non-stop progression) through the MPAs with snapper grouper species onboard with fishing gear appropriately stowed.**
- Trolling for pelagic species such as tuna, dolphin, mackerel and billfish is allowed within the MPAs.
** Fishing gear appropriately stowed means:
- Terminal gear (ie. hook, leader, sinker, flasher, or bait) used with an automatic reel, bandit gear, buoy gear, hand-line, or rod and reel must be disconnected and stowed separetely from such fishing gear. A rod and reel must be removed from the rod holder and stowed securely on or below deck.
- A longline may be left on the drum if all gangions and hooks are disconnected and stowed below deck. Hooks cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.
- A trawl or try net may remain on deck, but trawl doors must be disconnected from such net and must be secured.
- A gill net, stab net, or trammel net must be left on the drum. Any additional such nets not attached to the drum must be stowed below deck.
- A crustacean trap, golden crab trap, or sea bass pot cannot be baited. All buoys must be disconnected from the gear; however, buoys may remain on deck.