An initiative of Marine Conservation Institute

Global Ocean Refuges are the gold standard for marine protection

At the 2018 Our Ocean Conference, where representatives from about one hundred nations around the world and hundreds of marine conservationists are gathered, Marine Conservation Institute announced that seven new blue parks have been selected to receive its Global Ocean Refuge System Award. The newest members of the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced “glories”) all meet the highest science-based standards for biodiversity protection and best practices for management and enforcement. These strong marine protected areas and no-take reserves will make an outstanding contribution to saving marine life for future generations.

Marine Conservation Institute awards Global Ocean Refuge status to marine protected areas (MPAs) for actively safeguarding the world’s most valuable and biodiverse ocean habitats, sustaining marine biodiversity and increasing populations of marine life. Marine Conservation Institute’s objective for the award is to bring special recognition to nations, decision makers and site managers who effectively protect their marine ecosystems and to incentivize better ocean protection worldwide. Our hope is that this network grows and inspires nations around the world to strongly protect 30% of the ocean’s most important places by 2030.

"The most accurate and widely accepted tally of all MPAs"

At the Fall 2017 Our Ocean conference in Malta, the Pristine Seas Initiative presented its Malta Declaration where was recognized as "the most accurate and widely accepted tally of all MPAs." The Malta Declaration emphasized the current overestimation of global marine protection and highlighted our work to withold unimplemented sites from MPA coverage numbers as a more transparent and accurate method of tallying accurate marine protection levels. The inclusion of MPAs that are designated but unimplemented overestimates current protections on the water where it counts. Because many implemented areas do not offer full protections, only 2% of the global ocean is highly protected today. Dr. Sala also asserted that the term “MPA” is overused and that marine protected areas should include verifiable ocean protection. They called on nations to create, implement, and enforce real MPAs in their EEZs and on the high seas. As nations hopefully heed this powerful message, MPAtlas will continue showing “true” marine protection.

“If we are to get to 10% of the ocean protected by 2020, we need to implement what has been committed, enact what has been suggested, and create new fully protected areas.  We also call on nations of the world to accelerate the creation, implementation, and enforcement of genuine protected areas within their exclusive economic zones and in the high seas.”

- Malta Declaration, 2017

How is the Atlas of Marine Protection different from the official World Database on Protected Areas?

The team at the Atlas of Marine Protection ( endeavors to track marine protection levels as commitments by countries to increase MPA coverage become due. Currently, many countries are working to reach 10% protection of their marine waters by 2020. Through our own third party research, we adjust the official MPA numbers reported by the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) to better track highly protected and fully implemented marine protected areas. We include newly proposed, committed, or designated areas within days of announcement, carefully tracking areas that are proposed or promised, areas that are legally designated but as of yet unimplemented on the water, and those areas that are fully implemented and in force on the water. The Atlas of Marine Protection numbers differ from official WDPA numbers but our numbers are based on the comprehensive numbers found at the WDPA (

*Last comparison done in November 2017*

Learn More

How Much of Our Ocean is Protected?

Today, only 4.8% of the world’s oceans are protected in implemented and actively managed marine protected areas. Approximately half of that, or 2.2%, of the ocean is highly protected in no-take marine reserves.


Interactive High Seas Data Portal

Created as part of our work with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and the High Seas Alliance, check out our interactive map of high seas protection.

SeaStates 2017 Report

The United States risks falling behind in our efforts to protect our important ocean protections while the rest of the world races to meet global targets. Read more in our annual SeaStates report on US marine protection for 2017.

Read our blog about the report.

Why MPAs?


Marine protected areas are essential to safeguard biodiversity and to sustain vibrant seas in the face of increasing pressure from human caused threats.



Learn Why Marine Protected Areas Work

Interactive Maps

How Much is Protected?

Today only 3.6% of the world’s oceans are protected in implemented and actively managed marine protected areas. Approximately half of that, or 2.0%, of the ocean is highly protected in no-take marine reserves.

View the Map of Global MPAs

Proposed Future Protection

Our mission at is to evaluate and the levels of meaningful marine protection globally and to identify where and how we can meet internationally announced goals.

View the Map of Proposed MPAs