Marine Protected Areas

The ocean is not just one uniform expanse of water, there are many diverse and unique places in the ocean that are different than any other place in the world. There are forests where algae grow as tall as redwood trees, deep sea coral reefs live hundreds of years, and seamounts provide foraging hotspots for whales, turtles and fishes.

Many places in US waters rival the beauty and diversity of some of our cherished national parks on land, such as Yellowstone, the Everglades, and the Grand Canyon. These parks are held in trust and set aside for the greater good so that their beauty and wonder can be experienced by anyone who wishes to see them for generations yet to come.

The concept of protecting areas in the sea is relatively new to scientists and policy makers alike, and we are still learning how to best manage these areas to balance human use and maintain healthy ecosystems. Research from protected areas throughout the world, notably the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, has clearly demonstrated the value of protected areas to enhancing marine life as the protection that was put in place years ago is now resulting in thriving ecosystems.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the simplest and most robust marine management tools that can offer high return on investment for marine conservation.  By removing some uses from a marine environment, certain ecosystems can regain their actual function, populations can be bolstered and habitats protected.  Currently, MPAs cover just over 2 percent of the world’s oceans, and only about 1% is strongly protected in no-take marine reserves. Marine Conservation Institute's ambitious goal is to protect at least 20% of the ocean by 2030.  We are developing and leading a new innovative and systematic strategy, the Global Ocean Refuge System, to achieve this goal.