The Big Idea

The Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 provides an historic opportunity to launch a decadal effort to bring America’s “best idea” to where it is most urgently needed now — our ocean.

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”

The Solutions

Most of the protected areas in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone are far offshore in remote marine national monuments where the general public will not be able to interact with and enjoy them. In fact, of the 24.5 percent of the ocean in U.S. waters that has some form of protection, 24 percent is protected in remote marine reserves and only .5 percent is found in coastal areas where the public has an opportunity to interact with them.

The establishment of new national marine sanctuaries has been frozen with no significant sanctuaries creation in the ocean since 1994. In addition, all presidential marine monuments are remote and inaccessible to most Americans. This has come as a result of a backlash from the commercial and recreational fishing industry to the first generation of sanctuaries. With no organized, long-term support of stakeholders from the NGO and environmental communities, there has been little energy around creating new marine protected areas.

we must recommit to exemplary stewardship and public enjoyment of not only our green parks, but form a plan of action and accountability to restore and maintain the health of our ocean with a next century of “Blue Parks”

Our Chance

  • Like our parks and public lands, our ocean is fundamental to the American way of life
  • The ocean is certainly not too big to fail
  • It is home to more than half of life on earth and we've explored only 5% of it, thousands of new marine species are discovered each year and countless more have yet to be found
  • There is still time to act if we make the next decade and century count for the ocean and wildlife within it


  • Fully protected MPAs are proven and measurable ways to combat the threats to ocean health on three levels - ecosystems, species and genetics, allowing already damaged areas and ecosystems to recover sustainably.
  • MPAs increase resilience against damaging external impacts
  • Established MPAs can serve as benchmarks for comparison with altered ecosystems to assess human impact and improve management in some of the last truly “wild” places on Earth

Ocean Governance

  • U.S. has largest EEZ in the world with over 4 million sq. miles, an area 150% larger than all 50 states, stretching 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline, with historic opportunity to protect coastal & offshore habitats
  • In last 15 years, little legislative progress in accomplishing the widely recognized need to improve how the nation governs its ocean, coasts and great lakes resources.,
  • During same period, significant administrative action to create marine national monuments
  • MPAs are not new, but gaining a new emphasis as a place-based resource management tool
  • An advanced number of rulemakings to expand the size of existing MPAs, as well as consideration of new designations of national MPAs. New regulations create open-sourced grassroots approaches to identifying key biodiversity areas that are both special and important to local communities nationwide
  • Given the momentum of recent events and the strong coalition that is forming, there is an opportunity to create comprehensive ocean protection in the U.S. EEZ with lasting impact for generations to come.
  • Unique time where we can leverage the NPS Centennial and environmentally active Presidents across parties to create the “Blue Centennial”
  • Leaders around world signaling interest