Marine Wilderness Areas

Marine Wilderness Areas can be thought of in simple terms, as underwater national or state parks. They are protected areas where minimal human disturbances to the natural environment are allowed, while non-consumptive and compatible uses are encouraged such as tourism and wildlife viewing . They have a variety of potential ecological benefits including increasing biodiversity, raising biomass, protecting important life history functions and guarding endangered species. Areas under this protection can provide for habitat restoration for surrounding regions and as control areas for scientific research.

Mother and child enjoy swimming with the fish in the Leigh Marine Reserve, courtesy of the No Take Website
In order to explore this concept two Regional Marine Wilderness Workshops were held at the Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook in November, 2001 and May 2002. These focused on New York and nearby coastal states, but with an emphasis on our State’s coastal and estuarine waters.

Our goal was not to advocate for or against the creation of marine wilderness areas per se, but rather to objectively and rigorously evaluate their pros and cons as a tool in managing the interaction between humans and the marine environment. Participants included representatives of academia, government agencies, recreational and commercial fishing interests, aquaria, NGO’s and students in marine science and conservation. In keeping with the non-advocacy approach to this workshop, we designed a program that was science-based, balanced and open-ended with respect to the outcome.

The workshop explored the nature, potential benefits and possible limitations of marine wilderness areas and their possible future role in New York State. The presenters were all science-based experts who discussed their inherent aesthetic and educational values, economic consequences both positive and negative, as well as their likely limitations and how they could be included in overall resource management and recreational planning.

The workshop investigated and evaluated what results or goals can be achieved, and cannot be achieved by creating MWA’s at a spatial scale consistent with the State’s jurisdiction. The legal, economic and social issues involved in establishing marine wilderness areas in New York State were also evaluated.

For more information please view the following web pages: