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At, we’ve taken the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) data as a starting point and examined certain regions in depth, replacing WDPA records with national or regional databases that are more up-to-date or provide greater detail (e.g., using the NOAA MPA Center inventory for US sites) and performing additional corrections based on original research.

Our data differs from other databases due to the way we require full implementation prior to considering an MPA in our numbers. We consider sites that have been formally designated but currently unimplemented and proposed sites seperately so that our numbers reflect as accurately as possible the actual amount of protection "on the water." We also report on strongly protected marine protected areas as a subset of the total coverage, where at least some of the MPA prohibits extraction of resources through fishing, mining and resource exploration, as we believe the level of marine protection we need globally needs to mitigate direct human impacts as much as possible.


MPAtlas MPA Types

MPA Type Other terms No-take Subsistence Extraction Allowed Fishing Restrictions Access Restrictions Permanence Other Activities
Fully protected (No-Take) Marine reserves Yes, Fully no-take PROHIBITED PROHIBITED May be regulated Yes (> 20 years). Year-round no extraction of living or non-living resources – scientific collecting with permit ok
Strongly protected   May have some no-take zones with buffer RESTRICTED
low impact
Commercial: PROHIBITED
Recreational: RESTRICTED, allowed with permit and quantifiable as very limited take, no bottom trawling
May be regulated Yes (> 20 years). Year-round  
Limited take   No Yes RESTRICTED
limited gears, sustainable fishing
No restrictions Year-round  
Other MPA Marine parks No Yes Any No restrictions Year-round  
Non-MPA FMAs, marine mammal/shark sanctuaries,OECMs No Yes Any No restrictions Seasonal, temporary no limits on extraction

MPAtlas Status Definitions

Status Legislation Review Boundaries
Implemented In force Post-review Boundaries/zones finalized
Designated Established under competent authority, may implement at future date Legal designation post-review, but management plan and zoning may be subject to review. Boundaries finalized, may still need zoning details.
Proposed Being developed In progress, public input Boundaries proposed
Announced/Promised None required Pre-review None required


Data sets used to calculate regional and country-level coverage

Flanders Marine Institute (2016). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Maritime Boundaries and Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 9. Available online at Consulted on 2017-06-08.

VLIZ (2017). IHO Sea Areas, version 2. Available online at Consulted on 2017-06-08.

Method used to calculate global protected area coverage

This is a step by step guide on the method used to calculate global protected areas coverage in

  1. Start with the latest MPAtlas database export version found at Download Data. Link is currently unavailable.
  2. Only sites with a "designated" status that are also marked as implemented are included. These represent MPAs considered in effect on the water at the current moment.
  3. Sites with Status = Proposed, Not Reported; points with no reported area, and designated sites that remain unimplemented are not included here. We calculate coverage for unimplemented and proposed MPA marine coverage separately.
  4. The site boundaries are unioned to eliminate overlaps between designations and countries and avoid double counting. This gives us a global MPA coverage footprint.
  5. We clip the MPA footprint with a high resolution coastline to keep only marine areas of coastal parks that include terrestrial zones.
  6. The total global MPA coverage area is determined with a geodetic calculation that accounts for the curvature of the earth. The alternative method is to project the data into a global equal area projection, such as Eckert IV. Different projections will result in slightly different areas. We prefer to use the geodetic spheroid method whenever possible to remain projection agnostic.
  7. The marine protected area coverage per country is calculated by intersecting the total marine protected area footprint by each country's marine estate, the area between a country or jurisdiction's coastline and the outer boundary of their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). We compare the MPA footprint area to the total area of the marine estate. We currently use the latest EEZ data set from

To complete a successful analyses it is fundamental to check and repair geometry before running major calculations and to run topology tests to identify any duplicates or geometry issues. This is a simplified methodology, if you have any further questions please contact us at