Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs)


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Reef scene with fire coral (Millepora sp.) and mustard hill

Photo 28: Reef scene with fire coral (Millepora sp.) and mustard hill. 1990. (Photo courtesy of Thomas K. Gibson, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; NOAA Photo Library.)
(NOAA Photo Library.)

Designation of a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) is a comprehensive management tool at the international level for reviewing attributes within an area that are vulnerable to damage by international shipping and for determining the most appropriate protective measures available through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address that vulnerability. To be identified as a PSSA, three elements must be present: (1) the area must have certain attributes (ecological, socio-economic, or scientific); (2) it must be vulnerable to damage by international shipping; and (3) there must be measures that can be adopted by the IMO to protect the attributes of the area from the vulnerability to damage by international shipping. If approved by IMO, the end result will be an area identified as a "Particularly Sensitive Sea Area" and one or more IMO-adopted measures for ships to follow. It is important to note that there is no legal impact of the designation of an area as a PSSA per se; however, the measures that are adopted must have an identified legal basis.

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