MPA Mapping

We maintain a growing and open dataset of boundaries and regulations that apply to marine protected areas (MPAs) and fishery management areas in U.S. and international marine waters.

The goal of our effort is to provide a helpful resource for fishermen and mariners to use on the water and to enhance situational awareness of regulations and conservation measures for long-term marine management. Our U.S. contribution is depicted in this chart, but we could not do it alone. A large portion of boundary data in our datasets is compiled from federal and state agencies that created the data for marine managed areas under their jurisdiction.  

We are pleased to be in a public/private partnership with NOAA's National MPA Center. This partnership has helped ensure the most comprehensive and accessible MPA data is available for marine resource managers and the general public. We are also proudly partnered with Navionics to assist boaters and fishermen with navigation in and around Marine Protected Areas.

We are continually seeking additional contributors and partners to expand the dataset and make it more robust. If you have marine managed areas that you would like included in our datasets, please see our Submit Data page for instructions on how to contribute. Or, if you would like to distribute this data or if you have feedback about existing data, please contact support@protectedseas.net.

FAQ

Why this Map?

This map is designed to provide access to boundary and regulation information for areas in U.S. waters that manage extraction of natural living resources (i.e. fishing and take). Primarily intended for mariners and ocean users, these data allow for real-time access to place-based regulation information and details on the variety of prohibitions and restrictions that apply throughout U.S. ocean waters.

How were these areas Mapped?

ProtectedSeas uses a standardized process to collect, synthesize, and map marine managed areas.

Restrictions: The restricted activities listed for each managed area provide a summary of regulations (particular to extraction of natural, living resources) cited in official legislation and do not present the regulations in their entirety. For complete description of the regulations, users need to consult the official record, federal register notice or state/federal code (provided as URL links when available).

Boundaries: When available, the boundary data are obtained from the managing agency or authoritative source referenced for each managed area. When these data are not available, have not been drawn or are out-of-date, the boundaries are drafted from coordinates and boundary descriptions cited in state or federal code. Links to online sources/code are provided for each managed area in the site attributes.

Managed area boundaries are created for use at specific spatial scales. State and regional boundaries that cover large areas will often use a low-moderate resolution shoreline to depict the landward boundary of an MPA, while local boundaries that cover small areas will use a higher resolution shoreline. In areas where local and regional scale boundaries overlap, discrepancies between these shorelines (mapped at different scales) will be apparent.

How is this Data Updated?

The database that supports this application is updated regularly with new boundaries, boundary modifications, updates to regulations and other information obtained through feedback provided from users. Changes made between versions are recorded and published with the downloadable data. If you notice errors for an area, please let us know by sending us a message here!

Why aren't there Areas for my Country?

ProtectedSeas is working to map all global areas - but it's a big task! If you have MPA data you would like to share, please send us a message via our Contact Form.

Why do Areas Overlap?

Multiple regulations may apply in the same location yet be managed under differing authorities. When providing regulations information, this application does not assume precedence or hierarchy in listing of authorities and regulations. Many areas of U.S. waters have overlapping jurisdictions and a given ocean space may be managed under different authorities for different intents. As such, it may show that a given ocean area regulates a certain activity (e.g. commercial fishing) under one authority while prohibiting that same activity under a different authority. This application is intended to show all regulations that apply to a given ocean area and does not impose an order on how these regulations apply.

Is my Activity Allowed?

Most marine managed areas allow a wide range of recreational uses. However, this application focuses specifically on the kinds of extraction activities that are restricted or prohibited by law in U.S. waters. While not the focus of this effort, details on these kinds of uses and recreational opportunities may be found through the website links provided for each managed area.

What are the Limitations for this Map?

  • Boundaries are approximate. Because GIS projection and topology functions can change or generalize coordinates, the spatial boundaries depicted are considered to be approximate representations and are not an official record for the exact regulated area boundaries.
  • Not intended for enforcement purposes. Data are provided as a guide and for informational purposes only, as site boundaries and restrictions may not be up-to-date.
  • Regulations are summarized. The information on restricted activities is a distilled summary and does not represent the complete official regulations as cited in the legislative code. Users must refer to the official legislative code (link provided) for the complete official description of regulations and restrictions.
  • Multiple restrictions may apply at once. Areas and their related restrictions are not listed in a hierarchical order based on level of restrictions. In areas where there are discrepancies among regulations across varying jurisdictions, it should be assumed that the most restrictive regulations apply.
  • Only marine (saltwater/coastal) areas are included. Boundaries and regulations for Inland managed areas are not included in this application.
  • Conservation Focus. Areas managed for extraction of natural living resources like fishing and take are the focus of this application. Military closures, vessel traffic areas and areas managed for mainly for recreational and industrial uses may not be included unless they also manage extraction in some form.