Healthy oceans are critical for maintaining healthy national parks.

America’s five marine national monuments — Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahānaumokuākea, and Rose Atoll — are places that contain incredible wonders and support vast webs of ocean life. These protected waters, though not actively managed by the National Park Service, are extremely important to our national parks, as well as the future of our planet.

Oceans produce 50 percent of the world’s oxygen. A billion people, including millions of Americans, rely on viable, healthy oceans for their food and livelihoods. And America’s 88 coastal national parks are enormous tourist destinations that rely on thriving marine environments. In 2016, these parks attracted more than 96 million visitors and generated nearly $7 billion in economic benefits to local economies.

Scientists recognize marine protected areas as some of the most effective tools for improving ocean ecosystems and threatened fish stocks, which in turn supports healthy park wildlife and improves visitor experiences at our coastal national parks.

Unfortunately, our oceans are vulnerable to a multitude of serious problems, including overfishing, pollution, warming seas, coral bleaching and acidification, and marine conservation efforts lag far behind those on land. While protections exist for approximately 12 percent of global land area, less than 4 percent of our oceans receive any form of protection. Organizations such as the Marine Conservation Institute have called for protecting a minimum of 20 percent to maintain healthy oceans.

Conserving America’s valuable underwater treasures preserves biodiversity, protects endangered species, provides recreational and economic opportunities, builds resilience against the impacts of climate change, and strengthens the deep connections between our communities and maritime heritage.

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