Around the world only 0.8% of the world’s oceans are protected, and possibly less than 0.08% is in fully protected marine reserves. To view how the world is reserving its oceans, visit Protect Planet Ocean

This embarrassingly poor level of protection, combined with the increasingly obvious degraded state of the oceans health, has prompted many governments to take more action on marine protection. At a diplomatic level, governments reached international agreement at the Strategic Plan for Biological Diversity in 2012. They annouced that by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

The value of marine national parks are recognised globally as a means to protect biodiversity and improve sustainable use of marine resources internationally. Support for them is growing…

In the United States, there has been recognition of the vital role that marine protected areas in conservation of species and, most urgently, as key tools of defence against the effects of climate change. While the US inventory records almost 1700 MPAs of various sizes, the lack of a coordinated strategy for their management led to a Presidential request in 2000 to develop a national system of marine protected areas. Together with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), the government created the MPA Centre to implement their national Marine Protected Areas system. Beginning with a pilot study on the coast of California, Oregon and Washington state, consultation with state, national, tribal and commercial stakeholders has been ongoing.The MPAs of the US are continually expanding to include more protected areas, with 58 new members recently added to the National System of MPAs.

In New Zealand, there are over 30 marine reserves protecting 7.6% of the country’s waters, with some excellent stories of success (see Leigh Marine Reserve). However these reserves do not offer comprehensive or representative protection and so they too are pursuing a more thorough approach to a network of MPAs. At its core, this strategy seeks to develop:

  • A consistent approach to classification of the marine habitats and ecosystems
  • Mechanisms to coordinate a range of management tools
  • Inventory to identify areas where MPAs are required
  • A nationally consistent basis for planning and establishing new MPAs