/ ©: WWF


Less than 3% of the world’s oceans are protected, and the vast majority of existing marine parks and reserves are either poorly managed, or not looked after at all.

And yet, from maintaining sources of food to helping protect shorelines, and from protecting biodiversity to providing income and jobs, marine protected areas can achieve so much. This is why WWF is investing major efforts into them.
 / ©: IUCN
IUCN World Parks Congress, Sydney 2014
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Never in the history of humanity has the health of the oceans been more fragile, and more important to our wellbeing.

This costly decline impacts real people, such as fishermen struggling to feed their family, and is made worse by the disastrous effects of climate change.

We need more marine protected areas in the “right places” – where the conservation need is most urgent and where the potential for their contribution, for both humans and wildlife, at its highest.

With well-designed and managed marine protected areas, and especially networks of such areas, we can boost the health of ecosystems and even turn around the downward trends of marine biodiversity.

WWF has mapped those places (see map below) in the world that are of the highest priority in terms of food security and livelihoods, and the threats they face.

It is in those places that we are applying our know-how on marine protected areas to make sure that they meet people’s needs for generations to come.
The IUCN World Parks Congress (WPC) is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to advance the global agenda on marine conservation for the benefits of biodiversity and people.

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  • Maintaining biodiversity and providing refuges for endangered and commercial species
  • Protecting critical habitats from damage by destructive fishing practices and other human activities and allowing them to recover
  • Providing areas where fish are able to reproduce, spawn and grow to their adult size
  • Increasing fish catches (both size and quantity) in surrounding fishing grounds
  • Building resilience to protect against damaging external impacts, such as climate change
  • Helping to maintain local cultures, economies, and livelihoods which are intricately linked to the marine environment
 / ©: WWF / Catalyze
Fisheries benefits of MPAs (click for larger image)
© WWF / Catalyze
 / ©: WWF/Catalyze
Fisheries benefits of MPAs in temperate areas (CLICK TO VIEW LARGE IMAGE)
© WWF/Catalyze


A large number of terms and definitions are used to label marine conservation areas across the world.
These include marine reserves, fully protected marine areas, no-take zones, marine sanctuaries, ocean sanctuaries, marine parks, locally managed marine areas, to name a few. Many of these have quite different levels of protection, and the range of activities allowed or prohibited within their boundaries varies considerably too.

WWF uses the term Marine Protected Area as an overarching description of:

An area designated to protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats, and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic, and cultural enrichment.

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