2014 raised the visibility of the current state of our seas in the public eye, and culminated with the meeting of the World Parks Congress and the Promise of Sydney, which calls for global no-take reserve coverage of 30%. Today, only 2.2% of the world’s oceans are protected in marine protected areas, and globally only 0.9% are protected strongly in no-take marine reserves.
With the implementation of 16 currently proposed MPAs or MPA networks, the global percentage of marine protected areas would rise from its current 2.2% to 5.0%. The bulk of this increase would be based on proposed MPAs in Palau, New Caledonia, Pitcairn and Antarctica. Encouragingly, many of these expansions are expected to include no-take marine areas. No-take marine reserves would be increased from 0.9% to 1.3% of our seas.
It is important to note that some of these expansion numbers can only be from official proclamations, statements, and expressed plans, rather than on exact shapefiles of proposed boundaries. For example, Palau has stated that they plan to protect 80% of their EEZ, and estimated that area to cover 500,000 km2. However, our calculation based on the percentage produces an estimation of 483,431 km2. While this does not change the overall projected increase by a significant margin, several of these approximations taken together could alter the final outcome.
Marine protected areas are essential to safeguard biodiversity and to sustain vibrant seas.
Marine protected areas can increase biomass and biodiversity in tropical and temperate ecosystems, as well as serve as insurance policies against the impacts of fishing and other destructive activities. If managed properly, they are an effective way of protecting marine ecosystems along with their cultural and historical heritage for us and future generations.
Marine Protected Area statistics by political or ecological dimensions.