Marine Protected Areas: Smart Investments in Ocean Health and People in the Coral Triangle | WWF

Marine Protected Areas: Smart Investments in Ocean Health and People in the Coral Triangle

Marine Protected Areas and networks of Locally Marine Managed Areas can limit the impact of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change.

But in the Coral Triangle, there are too few of them, most are underfunded, and many do not function effectively.

WWF and its partners aim to change this

Investing in the ocean

The value of the ocean is conservatively estimated at USD 24 trillion, making it a major contributor to the global economy—but one that is continually being depleted. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have proven to be a successful tool to protect biodiversity and much-needed ocean habitats. MPAs and networks of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA) make ecosystems more resilient in the face of climate change and ocean acidification.

Over 1,900 have been designated in The Coral Triangle—but that’s just 1.6% of the region’s exclusive economic zones. There are not enough effective MPAs, as they often face limited funding, inadequate management, and lack of enforcement.

More than just ‘paper parks’

Because many MPAs in the Coral Triangle are limited to protecting biodiversity and habitats, rather than ensuring fish supply to boost local economies, local communities and enterprises do not necessarily benefit directly.

In many areas, MPAs restrict access to resources, thus getting little support from affected communities, governments, and private businesses. The MPA becomes ineffective—a “paper park.”

Research commissioned by WWF in 2015 has found that expanding and effectively managing MPAs for habitat protection—protecting even just 10% to 30% of marine or coastal areas—can result in benefits worth more than three times the cost of implementation.

These are benefits that can transform communities and industry—enough reason for governments, the private sector, and financial institutions to invest in MPAs.

Fisheries benefits of MPAs in tropical ecosystems

A rescue mission

  1. WWF aims to develop a blueprint for the protection of tuna nurseries and spawning areas to save Pacific bluefin and other tuna species from extinction. The Tuna Blueprint will legally protect 3 million ha of spawning, nursery, and migratory areas for important tuna fisheries.

    Another 2 million ha will come from national programmes implementing collaborative management approaches for MPAs and Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA) with key stakeholders such as government, communities, and private sectors working together to protect both the marine biodiversity, and the people who rely on it to live.

    The goal is for these iconic places of beauty and a wealth of marine resources to sustain life through integrated conservation that delivers sustainable social and economic benefits through well designed, effective MPAs that provide biodiversity protection, restoration of ecosystems and fisheries, livelihoods (e.g.. fisheries, tourism), food security, and coastal protection.


	© Fondation Segre
WWF thanks Foundation Segre for its generous support.
© Fondation Segre

On the ground in two countries

WWF Philippines and WWF Indonesia are adapting this approach in their national programmes, through the following concrete steps:
  • Supporting the creation of two new MPAs in Palawan in the Philippines and Koon Island in Indonesia
  • Engaging the business sector in the establishment, management and financing of MPAs and sustainable fisheries in both countries
  • Working with artisanal fishing communities in Indonesia’s Cendrawasih Bay MPA and Koon Island to formalize fishing rights and implement sustainable fisheries management practices

​Check out these two case studies from the Philippines:

Snapshot of MPA work in other areas


  1. Tun Mustapha Park

    Since 2003, WWF-Malaysia has worked with Sabah Parks and other government agencies, conservation organisations, communities, and the public in the gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) through the following actions:


  2. Semporna

    Since 1980, WWF-Malaysia has been active in the Semporna Priority Conservation Area (PCA), primarily with small-scale projects addressing several coral reef surveys and assisting in the establishment of the Tun Sakaran Marine Park.


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