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A new international study reveals the state of Marine Protected Areas


With the goal of protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030, the international community is striving to reverse biodiversity loss through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs, geographically distinct zones with specific protection objectives. This new study has revealed that not all MPAs are as protected as they were intended to be. 

A new study, examining the quality of the protection provided by MPAs has indicated that there is room for improvement in ensuring that they are indeed, ‘protected’. Researchers applied a scientific framework to assess real marine protected area progress against the ‘30 by 30 target’ in the world’s largest MPAs in the world. The results of this study show that a quarter of the assessed MPA coverage is not implemented, and one-third is incompatible with the conservation of nature. The study further reveals two main factors contributing to this outcome. Firstly, many reported MPAs lack regulations or management. Secondly, some MPAs allow high-impact activities. 


While fully and highly protected MPAs account for one-third of the assessed area, they are unevenly distributed across ecoregions. The study suggest that indicators are needed to assess not only the MPA coverage, but also MPA quality.  

The study includes some policy recommendations to improve MPA coverage and quality. Firstly, the authors of the publication suggest that MPAs classified as unimplemented or incompatible with conservation should not be counted toward MPA targets. Secondly, MPA reporting should include a ‘level of protection’ as a component indicator. The planning of MPAs should take into consideration the specific conditions of the ecosystem, to emphasise areas that suffer from significant impacts. Finally, the study suggests the need to ratify and implement The High Seas Treaty, establishing MPAs on high seas. 

MPAs are a key tool to restore ocean health and an effective implementation of these areas can produce positive outcomes not only on an ecological level, but also for the economy, the local communities and climate change. They are also a central component of Mission Ocean activities, many of which are being undertaken by the Blue Parks Community

Read the full study for the in depth research and results here