No-Take Zone

No-Take Zone

A no-take zone is an area set aside by a government where no extractive activity is allowed. Extractive activity is any action that extracts, or removes, any resource.


10 - 12+


Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Oceanography, Geography

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Morgan Stanley

A no-take zone is an area set aside by the government where no extractive activity is allowed. Extractive activity is any action that removes, or extracts, any resource. Extractive activities include fishing, hunting, logging, mining, and drilling. Shell collecting and archaeological digging are also extractive.

No-take zones usually make up part of larger protected areas. These protected areas, sometimes part of national or state parks, are located on both land and open water, such as lakes and oceans. No-take zones offer a greater amount of protection to the ecosystems, habitats, and species within the boundaries of those larger, and less restrictive, protected areas.

No-take zones are a specific type of marine protected area (MPA). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), no-take MPAs totally prohibit the extraction or significant destruction of natural or cultural resources.

No-take MPAs are rare. Most countries and states have fisheries that depend on the extraction of marine life. Sport fishing and commercial fishing are often important industries in coastal areas. Throughout the world, the fishing industry is the most powerful opponent of no-take zones. However, archaeologists, treasure hunters, and the oil and mining industries are also often critical of no-take MPAs.

Most no-take zones are often part of multiple-use MPAs, where different levels of activity are allowed in different zones. Multiple-use MPAs regulate the amount of extractive activity, as well as recreation and scientific research, that can take place in a protected area.

No-take zones within multiple-use MPAs usually protect the spawning grounds of many aquatic species. They may also serve as outdoor laboratories that allow scientists to compare the undisturbed areas of a no-take area to those impacted by human activities. Through these experiments, scientists are better able to understand how human activities affect the marine environment.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, California

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is a multiple-use MPA located in the Santa Barbara Channel, off the southern coast of the U.S. state of California. The sanctuary encompasses about 3,807 square kilometers (1,470 square miles) of water surrounding Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara Islands. The islands surrounded by the no-take MPAs are not inhabited by people, and only limited scientific research is allowed on them.

In 2007, NOAA added nine new marine zones to the sanctuary, eight of which are no-take marine reserves. These new no-take areas prohibit all extractive activities and injury to sanctuary resources.

The Channel Islands no-take zones protect a great variety of organisms, including large forests of giant kelp, fish, invertebrate populations such as shrimp and clams, and diverse species of marine birds. Marine mammals, such as whales and sea lions, also inhabit the sanctuary. The no-take zones provide full or part-time habitats for endangered species, including blue, humpback, and sei whales, southern sea otters, California brown pelicans, and the California least terns.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia

Located off the northeast coast of Australia, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park begins at the tip of Cape York in the territory of Queensland and extends south almost to the city of Bundaberg. The park is only slightly smaller than the nation of Japan, and stretches approximately parallel to the Queensland coast for more than 2,240 kilometers (1,400 miles).

In the Great Barrier Reef, no-takes areas are also known as Green Zones. Within Green Zones, recreational activities such as boating, snorkeling, and diving are allowed. However, fishing and coral collecting are entirely prohibited.

Until recently, no-take zones made up less than five percent of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Within the last ten years, the network of no-take areas now covers more than 33 percent of the MPA.

Green Zones improve the protection of the regions biodiversity through a series of strict guidelines. All Green Zones in the MPA are at least 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide.

The Green Zone network offers at least 20 percent protection per bioregion. A bioregion is a geographic region that is larger than a single ecosystem. Some of the bioregions protected by no-take zones in the Great Barrier Reef include coastal beaches, lagoons, and more than 30 types of coral reefs.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park supports a phenomenal variety of organisms, including many vulnerable or endangered species. Four hundred coral species make up the majority of the reef. Six species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed, while 215 species of birds regularly visit the reef, with some nesting on nearby islands. The islands also support 2,195 known plant species. More than 1,500 species of fish live on the reef, and thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been recorded within the MPA.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the richest, most complex, and most diverse ecosystems in the world. It is also one of Australias most profitable tourist centers. Tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef to enjoy the largest coral reef in the world, its colorful and unique habitats, and the array of recreational activities in the area. They also come to participate in sport fishing and other extractive activities.

Australia has large fisheries near the Great Barrier Reef. Marlin, coral trout, bass, snapper, and a wide variety of sharks are harvested near the park. Some of these fish are also harvested in the park itself, in zones that allow for commercial or sport fishing.

The network of no-take zones allows leaders to manage the park to support both the environment and economy of the area.

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Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Santani Teng
Hilary Hall
Tara Ramroop
Erin Sprout
Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau
Hilary Costa
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Tim Gunther
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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