UNEP launches new online system to view and study the world's marine protected areas
UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, UK
8 June 2009, Cambridge – At a time when the world's oceans are facing unprecedented pressures from human impacts in the marine environment, a new decision-making tool is being launched to provide the most current and relevant information about marine and coastal biodiversity and its protection status.
This marine protected areas tool ( www.wdpa-marine.org), created by the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is part of the recently redeveloped World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) – the authoritative and most globally comprehensive list of marine and terrestrial protected areas.
"Marine protected areas are critical to the future of the oceans and they will ensure that the ecosystem services on which millions of people around the world rely for their livelihoods and existence will be maintained," explained Kristian Teleki, Head of the One Ocean Programme and Director of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) at UNEP-WCMC.
"Without Marine Protected Areas and the efforts of governments, conservation organisations and communities around the world to manage and conserve the marine environment, the future of the oceans and the diversity of life contained within them will be jeopardized."
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are locations which receive protection because of their environmental, scenic or socio-economic value. Although some countries have marine protected areas, these vary considerably in size and designation from country to country, depending on national needs and priorities, and on differences in legislative, institutional and financial support.
MPAs cover different marine and coastal environments from shallow coastal waters to the deepest sea, from polar oceans to tropical seas and often span national boundaries. When combined with other conservation measures such as spatial planning and ecosystem-based management, these areas can be very effective.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "Currently somewhere around 12 per cent of the land is held in protected areas, but less than one per cent of the marine environment has been given such status - so this needs to change, and to change fast too. It is our hope that the WDPA-Marine will help nations redress this imbalance and that in the next decade we will have achieved significant progress in protecting the seas through MPAs."