Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Current pressures on marine environments put the long-term productivity of our oceans and seas at risk. The creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is an effective tool for providing lasting protection, enabling restoration and helping allowing for sustainable use of the oceans.

MPAs have been proven to allow threatened fish stocks to recover and contribute to increasing the productivity of adjacent fishing areas. In Fiji, a locally managed MPA network has tripled fish catches and increased local income by 35 per cent over three years. In the Egyptian Red Sea, five years after the establishment of marine reserves, fishing has increased by 66 per cent in neighbouring areas. At present, less than 1% of the oceans are protected, compared to almost 13% of the Earth’s land area.

MPAs should not be considered as isolated islands of nature but as tools in the service of the sustainable management of the oceans. MPAs help protect sensitive environments and threatened species but isolated MPAs cannot provide truly effective conservation of marine habitats.

To balance the needs of fisheries and the marine environment, and optimise the benefits of MPAs, it is best to protect a network of marine areas. Such networks must comprise carefully selected key inshore and offshore habitats, ensuring protection for the full spectrum of marine species and habitat types. Networks should also incorporate migratory movements and ecological corridors across ocean basins. One of the commitments made by world leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 was to address the current inadequate protection of our oceans and coasts by creating representative networks of MPAs by 2012.

Unfortunately, due to lack of funding and available resources fewer than 10% of designated MPAs are achieving their management goals and objectives, almost all are open to some forms of tourism and recreation, and 90% are open to fishing.