In response to calls from conservationists and scientists, President Clinton has ordered US federal agencies to establish a comprehensive national network of marine protected areas throughout US marine waters. Executive Order #13158, delivered May 26, calls for expansion of the nation's MPA system to include examples of all types of US marine ecosystems.
Clinton's action represents the first official US directive to coordinate the nation's unsystematic array of MPA-related initiatives. The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- which oversees the US National Marine Sanctuaries, among other MPAs -- will be in charge of developing a single framework to manage the national system. The framework will be intended to support, rather than limit, agencies' independent exercise of their existing authorities.
To set the framework, NOAA will team with the Department of the Interior, which oversees National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. Following Clinton's announcement, NOAA Administrator James Baker remarked that the order will improve the US' current fragmented MPA system. "We don't have a master plan that says, 'This is how this all fits together scientifically,'" he said. "That's what we're trying to put together here."