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MBNMS Ecosystem Observations 2004

photo 2004 Steve Lonhart for NOAA/MBNMS

For about half of 2004, I had a great opportunity to live in Italy and study how it manages its national marine sanctuaries, called "marine protected areas." It was a fantastic opportunity for me and for our National Marine Sanctuary Program, as I have returned with many ideas about what to do to improve our management of this nation's system of marine protected areas.

I also returned with ideas about what not to do. Some of those come from observations about programs or tactics that did not seem effective, while many others were things that are different because the United States and Italy are different nations culturally.

It was reassuring to see that the cultural core of the National Marine Sanctuary Program and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—to involve stakeholders in making resource management decisions—is also a large part of how Italian protected area managers operate. While nothing may match how national marine sanctuaries involve the public in management plan reviews, the Italians also look to fishermen, dive shops, charter boat operators, local governments, and the general public in their decision making.

Our written tools to manage national marine sanctuaries surpass those in Italy. Our detailed five- to ten-year management plans, our research plans, our water quality plans, and our education plans have no parallel. Certainly, some Italian marine protected areas have annual newsletters like our Ecosystem Observations. Most sites in Italy have effective brochures, and they generally do a good job of communicating to marine users about the rules of marine zones. So again, while there are differences, there are things in common.

Perhaps one of the most reassuring traits Italian and U.S. marine protected areas share is the challenge to balance the needs of locals within the context of a nationally significant protected status. Whether "use" means extracting resources, just looking at them, or just knowing they are there, I found much in common with fellow site managers in Italy who struggled each day with providing as much as possible to locals while reminding all that this is a resource protected for an entire nation.

In fact, protected for international benefit. So, it is your sanctuary, enjoy it. And share it, because it is the sanctuary for many others, too.

William J. Douros, Superintendent
NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

2004 EcoObs Cover  

A PDF version of this report is available here:

ecoobs2004.pdf (1.3 MB)


Reviewed: April 11, 2024
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