In partnership with the Waitt Foundation, Marine Conservation Institute (MCI) has been tracking global progress towards protecting oceans using data curated on its website MPAtlas. Presently, only 2.1% of the global ocean is under marine protected area management and an even smaller percentage have the strongest level of protection, no-take marine reserves (0.83%). To help inform progress, earlier this year Marine Conservation Institute added a new tool, “Campaign Tracker” that helps people explore the progress of global marine protected area campaigns and initiatives. It shows where governments and conservation groups are working to designate new marine protections around the world.
At the recent IUCN World Parks Congress in Australia, Marine Conservation Institute unveiled the SeaStates G20 2014 report that used MPAtlas.org data to rank the G20 member countries on how well they have established strongly protected no-take marine reserves. Marine Conservation Institute first reviewed marine protected areas by their IUCN classification category. Then, where possible, it further characterized the marine protected areas by their stated management objectives and enforcement plans to determine what, if any, portion of each country’s marine estate (territorial and exclusive economic zone, EEZ waters) was protected from commercial extraction of marine life and other natural resources. The results revealed that a very small percentage, often less than 1%, of the waters of G20 countries are in no-take reserves and, for the most part, large marine protected areas are often found far from heavily populated coastlines.
The World Parks Congress concluded with a statement that strongly protected no-take reserves should be increased to cover 30% of our global ocean. To help accelerate action towards achieving this vitally important goal, Marine Conservation Institute is working on a major initiative – the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES). GLORES (pronounced glôr-ees) is a comprehensive science-based strategy for advancing marine protected areas worldwide. GLORES will establish clear, objective, transparent criteria for the best locations, strong protection, effective management and credible enforcement to save species and their habitats from harm. It will incentivize and accelerate the creation of strongly protected marine areas. As knowledge of the urgent need for marine conservation has increased, so have world leaders’ declarations of large marine protected areas worldwide. While this benevolent race to create the largest protected area of ocean has certainly been exciting, efforts in national waters are still not even close to what they should be, and the high seas has even farther to go. We are a long way from what is necessary to provide the long-term protection for marine life and the world’s oceans.