Improving Marine Protected Areas management

The vast majority of the world's current Marine Protected Areas suffer from little or no management. To redress this, we are working on:
  • capacity building, direct support, and other measures to improve park management
  • sustainable financing of Marine Protected Areas
  • ensuring that local people benefit from Marine Protected Areas, and are involved in their management

Providing capacity building & support

WWF is working with fishers, local communities, the tourism industry, and park managers to improve the management of Marine Protected Areas, Locally Managed Marine Areas and adjacent or overlapping fishing grounds.

This includes making sure that park managers are well equipped, informed, and trained, and that they can easily assess the effectiveness of their work.

It also involves implementing the principles of ecosystem-based management into the use of marine resources in and adjacent to Marine Protected Areas and Locally Managed Marine Areas, such as fisheries and tourism developments.

We also work with national governments and regional and international policy makers, pushing for new and better agreements on management practices. In addition, we cooperate with scientists to establish the baseline knowledge necessary for effective management.

This is what this works looks like in practice:
  • Providing patrol boats and other equipment to Marine Protected Areas and Locally Managed Marine Areas around the world
  • Training staff and field rangers
  • Promoting sustainable fishing practices in Marine Protected Areas and Locally Managed Marine Areas that allow fishing activities
  • Supporting projects to reduce the impacts of tourism on these areas
  • Involving local communities and business in Marine Protected Areas and Locally Managed Marine Areas management
Supporting Marine Protected Areas and Locally Managed Marine Areas initiatives such as
MedPAN, a network of MPA managers in the Mediterranean. The aim of the network is to facilitate exchange between Mediterranean MPAs in order to improve the efficiency of the management of these areas. ► MedPAN website

The Locally-Managed Marine Area Network in the Pacific is a group of practitioners involved in various community-based marine conservation projects around the globe, primarily in the Indo-Pacific, who have joined together to learn how to improve our management efforts. ► LMMA Network website

The MIHARI network is an informal network that was inspired by the success of the LMMA Network in the Pacific region. MIHARI aims to facilitate peer-to-peer learning amongst coastal communities, improve communication, raise the profile and expand the use of the LMMA approach and serve as a unified lobbying platform for the interests of Madagascar’s traditional fishers. ► Live With the Sea website

Assisting with financial sustainability

A network covering 20-30% of the oceans would require an increased investment in marine conservation by around 2 orders of magnitude compared to today.

According to one study, the annual cost for a Marine Protected Areas network covering 30% of the world's seas would be US$12-14 billion. This is less than what governments are already paying as fishing subsidies (US$15-30 billion), that have played a large role in overfishing.

However, few countries—even among the richest—have managed to define and establish ways to provide long-term sustainable, financing for a single Marine Protected Area, let alone a network.

WWF's work for sustainable Marine Protected Area financing includes:
  • Promoting new financing mechanisms
  • Promoting tourism revenues
  • Looking at Marine Protected Area costs and benefits

Bringing benefits to people

Marine Protected Areas can provide benefits to local communities living in or around the area protected. WWF's Global Marine Programme is working around the world with local communities to establish and manage Marine Protected Areas in a participatory approach.

We are looking at scaling up and replicating models of Marine Protected Areas that can deliver food security and sustainable sources of income and livelihoods to coastal communities.

For example, Marine Protected Areas help increase fish populations, which can lead to better catches for local fishers. They can also provide new sources of income for coastal communities, such as through tourism and park management.

To help ensure these benefits, we are working to:
  • Provide support to governments and local communities for identifying the most suitable and critical places for establishing Marine Protected Areas
  • Support the community’s participation in Marine Protected Area co-management
  • Help develop alternative sources of income and livelihoods around Marine Protected Areas through promoting tourism opportunities and market incentives
 / ©: Anthony B. Rath / WWF
Snorkelers on a tourist boat Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize.
© Anthony B. Rath / WWF


San Pedro, Belize, presents perhaps the premier example of a community that has lifted itself out of poverty through assertive local management of its marine resources.

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