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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is behind the Atlas of Marine Protection?

The Marine Conservation Institute is the project home for the Atlas of Marine Protection (  We are generoulsy funded by the Waitt FoundationArntz Family Foundation and the Winslow Foundation.

How does MPAtlas calculate how much of our oceans are protected by MPAs and why do they differ from official WDPA numbers?

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 evaluating their efforts to reach 10% protection of their marine waters by 2020. Through our own third party research, we apply additional guidance to the offical MPA numbers reported by the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) to focus on 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 do differ from official WDPA ( numbers because we report on implemented fully and highly MPAs as evaluated against criteria included in The MPA Guide.

Why focus on fully and highly protected marine protected areas?

Fully and highly protected marine protected areas include no-take reserves and large isolated MPAs that allow managed recreational fishing but due to their remote location are not heavily impacted. There is a growing list of peer-reviewed papers in support of highly protected MPAs. We have an ongoing list and welcome contributions if you know of any missed sources.

What are the MPA Protection Level definitions?

Fully Protected - no extractive or destructive activities are allowed, and all impacts are minimized.

Highly Protected - only light extractive activities are allowed, and other impacts are minimized to the extent possible.

Lightly Protected - some protection exists but moderate to significant extraction and impacts are allowed.

Minimally Protected - extensive extraction and other impacts are allowed while still providing some conservation benefit to the area.

What are the MPA Status definitions?

Initiative – Collection of campaigns unified under a central theme. Usually supported by a common NGO, agency or collection of groups.

Campaign – Formally declared effort to increase marine protection in a certain geographic area or ecosystem, no declared boundaries.

Proposed/Committed - The intent to create an MPA is made public, for example through a submission to the Convention on Biological Diversity or other instrument, conference announcement, official press release, or other official declaration.

Designated - An MPA is specifically codified or dedicated through legally recognized means or authoritative rule. The MPA now exists ‘on paper’ and in law or other formal process.

Implemented - An MPA transitions from existence on paper to being operational on the water, with concomitant management in place that aims to ensure compliance and enforcement. The MPA has a defined boundary, objectives and management strategy that reflect the primacy of conservation objectives (as per the IUCN definition of an MPA).

Actively Managed - An MPA has demonstrable and ongoing enforceable rules, monitoring, evaluation, adaptive management and conservation outcomes.

What is the difference between a campaign and a proposed MPA?

The process of creating an MPA starts with a campaign, run by an individual, an organization, a government, or other interested body. At this point in the process, no specific boundaries have yet been proposed for the MPA. Once boundaries have been officially and publically proposed, a campaign has created a proposed (candidate) MPA site.

How can I provide corrected or updated information?

First – thank you!  Users like you who provided updated and corrected information on MPA sites, campaigns, and initiatives are invaluable to our work. You can email us directly at

How can I get my MPA campaign included in the campaign tracker?

We welcome verifiable information on campaigns from around the world. Please contact us at with your campaign information.

What is the largest MPA?

Ross Sea Protected Area is 1.55 million square kilometers, of which 1.12 million square kilometers, or 72%, is fully protected (no fishing is permitted).

What is the smallest MPA?

Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park, BC, Canada – 0.004 km2 (0.4 hectare)