Marine Protected Areas: A Comparative Study of the Legal Framework of the United States, United Kingdom, and France

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Mary Beth Decker
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From climate change to ocean acidification, overfishing, and pollution, our oceans are experiencing new and ever-growing threats each year. A worldwide network of marine protected areas (MPAs) is crucial to conservation efforts because it can help build ocean resilience to climate-related disturbances, connect important feeding and mating grounds for vulnerable species, and increase biodiversity and the density of species within local ecosystems. However, exactly what is defined as “protected” and how countries plan to reach this goal is still largely up for debate. It is therefore important to determine if existing international policies and treaties that encourage the responsible use of ocean resources are sufficient in guiding the creation of an effective international network of MPAs. Currently, MPAs in three countries, the United States, United Kingdom, and France represent over 50% of the total area covered by MPAs worldwide. Transparency in the factors that have led to the successes, as well as failures, of well-established MPAs will help other countries around the world to implement or improve their own protected sites. This comparative study intends to analyze federal and international legislation within the United States, United Kingdom, and France to determine how legal frameworks can establish effective MPAs that successfully combat the adverse effects of climate change, overfishing, pollution and other anthropogenically induced threats to our oceans.