Expanding Marine Protected Area networks

The world's leaders have recognized the vital role that Marine Protected Areas play in safeguarding marine ecosystems and local economies. We are working to ensure they keep their MPA commitments.

Governments have made commitments

Marine and coastal management is not a new concept. For centuries, communities have closed areas by tradition or law to protect their resources and livelihoods. 

But it’s only recently that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have entered the international political arena, with governments making commitments to expand the area under protection in their national waters

For example, one of the few 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.

More recently, in 2010 governments gathered in Japan at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting agreed to a biodiversity rescue plan, that includes marine protected areas covering at least 10% of our oceans by 2020.

We are helping to meet them

To meet these commitments, WWF's Global Marine Programme helps governments and local communities identify those critical places that are in urgent need for protection in order to secure food security and livelihoods.

WWF has decades of experience working with fishermen, local communities, tourism operators for implementing best practices including participatory management of MPAs.

We also cooperate with researchers to advance the science of how to design networks of MPAs so that they provide the maximum benefit for people and for biodiversity.

We have identified several priority marine habitats for protection, including: 
Our long-term goal is to achieve comprehensive, adequate and ecologically representative networks of well-managed MPAs to ensure sustainable marine futures, especially for those coastal communities who most depend on it.

30 years of results

WWF has been working on marine conservation for over 30 years. We have helped achieve protection for marine areas in 21 regions around the world, from locally managed areas to larger areas such as the Coral Triangle. 

In all cases, these successes have been due to strong partnerships including local communities, governments, NGOs, and research institutions, all working together towards a common vision to conserve marine ecosystems and the resources they support.

Establishing a representative MPA network...

WWF has been heavily involved in the creation of a representative network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Coastal East Africa – one of our priority places.

An area of exceptionally high biodiversity running for 4,600km down the east African coast, this region includes one of the most diverse coral, mangrove, and seagrass complexes in the western Indian Ocean.

It is also home to around 22 million people, most of whom depend on the coastal seas for their sustenance, livelihoods, and leisure.

However these livelihoods, and the area’s biodiversity, are threatened by coastal degradation due to a range of human activities.

In early work, WWF was involved in the creation of Tanzania's Mafia Island Marine Park, established in 1995 and the country's first marine park, as well as the creation of Quirimbas National Park in 2002.

We are currently working with the Mozambican government to establish the proposed 1.7 million ha Primeiras and Secundas Archipelago MPA, which will be the largest in Africa.

...and helping local communities

Local people had requested the creation of marine sanctuaries as part of Quirimbas National Park, in order to help overfished fish populations recover.

The MPA provides a legal framework for protection as well as a management plan for the park’s marine resources.

Through better management, poaching by illegal migrant sailboats was brought under control, and a trend of increasing fish numbers, size, and diversity in sanctuary areas was observed. This has meant better catches for local fishermen, who capture fish that have "spilled out" of the sanctuaries.
A future benefit for communities living in Quirimbas National Park is revenue through tourism. With assistance from WWF, the park management is currently implementing its business plan, which projects that tourism-based fees should allow the park to reach financial sustainability within 15 years.

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