Promoting effective marine protected areas

We support protected areas to conserve, manage and protect marine resources.

We cannot survive without healthy oceans. Yet, they have been under too much stress, from too many human activities, for too many years. Overfishing, resource extraction, tourism, recreation, coastal development and pollution are damaging habitats and reducing populations of marine species at a frightening rate.

It’s a bad situation being made visibly and rapidly worse by climate change. We have already lost half of the world’s coral reefs; in 2016 alone, we witnessed the death of a 400-mile stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. We are consuming 31 per cent of fish stocks at unsustainable levels, largely due to illegal, unreported or unregulated activities. In short, we are using the ocean’s resources faster than they can naturally recover.

Marine protected areas offer one of the best options to maintain our oceans’ health and avoid further degradation. They can be particularly effective when developed as part of a wider management solution.

This can bring about several benefits. Ecological benefits come from protecting species, habitats and ecosystem functions; social benefits come from engaging stakeholders in the planning and fair sharing of benefits; and economic benefits come from ensuring the long-term sustainable use of natural resources and tourism incomes. These benefits combined could help deliver several of the Sustainable Development Goals, including reducing poverty, improving food security and tackling climate change.

UN Environment assists countries in approving the effectiveness and equitable use of marine protected areas by providing technical expertise and capacity building support on governance of marine protected areas, and their use within wider integrated ocean and coastal management systems.