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Authors

Bradley W. Barr

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Recognizing that the ocean is not a uniform environment, but a highly heterogeneous patchwork of different habitats, bottom types, physical features and varying water column complexities, it follows that some of these areas are more important toward specie survival and long term success. Such areas are called "essential habitats," which are "geographically or physically distinct areas that one or more species finds indispensable for its survival at some phase in its life history." Arguably, it is difficult to identify such areas given the state of our knowledge of oceanic environments at ecologically-significant scales. It is this uncertainty, in part, that spawns some of the controversy regarding the impact on essential marine habitat by mariculture activities. One of the interesting aspects of a federal marine regulatory system is that when a controversy arises in a specific area, its implications may be felt on a national scale. To deal with such controversy, particularly with regard to the National Marine Sanctuary Program, the prudent regulator must address the contested issue in a pragmatic way. This approach often fails to assist those initially involved in the controversy, however, it does provide direction for others that follow. Regulatory measures that incorporate public discussion, whereby all interested parties express their views on potential regulations, are effective to alleviate potential future conflicts. This method is especially effective with mariculture, where many different parties share conflicting views. This Commentary is designed to address these issues. Part II of this Commentary discusses the present federal programs that identify and protect essential habitats within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and addresses how these habitats are affected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Act) and the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Part III will concentrate on issues and proposals concerning essential habitat designations and mariculture activities within the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This Commentary then suggests that in order to provide compensation to the public for the private utilization of common resources within the EEZ for mariculture, lease programs must be developed.

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