An initiative of Marine Conservation Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is behind the Atlas of Marine Protection?

The Marine Conservation Institute is the project home for the Atlas of Marine Protection (  We are generoulsy funded by the Waitt FoundationArntz Family Foundation and the Winslow Foundation.

How does MPAtlas calculate how much of our oceans are protected by MPAs and why do they differ from official WDPA numbers?

The team at the Atlas of Marine Protection ( endeavors to track marine protection levels as commitments by countries to increase MPA coverage become due. Currently, many countries are working to reach 10% protection of their marine waters by 2020. Through our own third party research, we adjust the offical MPA numbers reported by the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) to track highly protected and fully implemented marine protected areas. We include newly proposed, committed, or designated areas within days of announcement, carefully tracking areas that are proposed or promised, areas that are legally designated but as of yet unimplemented on the water, and those areas that are fully implemented and in force on the water. The Atlas of Marine Protection numbers do differ from official WDPA numbers but our numbers are based on the comprehensive numbers found at the WDPA (

Why focus on highly protected marine protected areas?

Highly protected marine protected areas are generally no-take MPAs but also includes large, isolated MPAs that allow managed recreational fishing but by virtue of their location are not heavily impacted. There is a growing list of peer-reviewed papers in support of highly protected MPAs. We have an ongoing list and welcome contributions if you know of any missed sources.

What about MPAs that are poorly or not enforced?

While we agree that not all MPAs (and indeed not all campaigns) are created equal, at this time we are not yet able to incorporate the effectiveness of a protected area into the map.  It is something we hope to do in the future. If we have specific information about the effectiveness of an MPA, it will be included in the site description.  To learn more about evaluating MPA effectiveness, please visit

What are the MPA Status definitions?

Within the Campaign Tracker:

Initiative – Collection of campaigns unified under a central theme. Usually supported by a common NGO, agency or collection of groups.

Campaign – Formally declared effort to increase marine protection in a certain geographic area or ecosystem, no declared boundaries.

After site is formally proposed:

Proposed – Area of proposed protection with boundaries that have been proposed publicly

Designated – Formally legislated but currently without management plan, zonation (if needed), regulations, or enforcement

Implemented – Formally created with management plan, zones, regulations and enforcement, "in force"

Defunct – No longer enforced or recognized

What is the difference between a campaign and a proposed MPA?

The process of creating an MPA starts with a campaign, run by an individual, an organization, a government, or other interested body. At this point in the process, no specific boundaries have yet been proposed for the MPA. Once boundaries have been officially and publically proposed, a campaign has created a proposed (candidate) MPA site.

How can I provide corrected or updated information?

First – thank you!  Users like you who provided updated and corrected information on MPA sites, campaigns, and initiatives are invaluable to our work. Clicking on the “Sign In” link at the upper right corner will allow you to sign in or create an account.  There are tiered memberships and if you email us and request editing priviledges we will work to provide you the appropriate level of access.

How can I search the MPAtlas?

We are working on additional functionality including the ability to query the MPAtlas database for specific information.

How can I get my MPA campaign included in the campaign tracker?

We welcome verifiable information on campaigns from around the world. Please contact us at with your campaign information.

What is the largest MPA?

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (2016), 1,508,870 km2, but the newly designated Ross Sea Protected Area will be the largest when implemented in late 2017.

What is the smallest MPA?

Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park, BC, Canada – 0.004 km2 (0.4 hectare)