Marine Protected Areas are an incredibly effective mechanism for protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems and species, but visualizing where and how large they are is challenging. The MPAAtlas is a tool created by The Marine Conservation Institute in 2012 with the expressed goal of providing a nuanced and clear map of all of the marine protected areas globally, raising awareness about the stark difference between the quality of terrestrial areas that are protected (13%), and marine areas that are protected (approx. 5%). Though they use the data provided by the World Database on Protected Areas, which counts every marine protected area (MPA) worldwide and was created by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UN Environment, they recognize that there is a fair amount of latitude in what constitutes a marine protected area. The Word Database on Protected Areas has a definition of MPAs that is incredibly broad, meant to reflect the wide range of definitions used by each country that chooses to establish an MPA. Depending on what country the MPA is established under, drilling, fishing, and oil exploration could all be allowed. To that end, the MPAAtlas categorizes each type of marine protected area listed in the World Database on Protected Areas based on the protection actually provided. The result is an impactful map that shows where and how much protection there is for ocean habitats (not that much), how many MPAs have been established but aren’t enforced (over 2,000), and how well the rules governing those areas have been enforced (not that well). This map appears to be updated as information becomes available, and while it may not paint the rosiest picture of ocean protection, it is a powerful tool to show much work still needs to be done. This tool highlights a lack of cohesion globally for what constitutes a marine protected area, and while this is something that the Marine Conservation Institute accounts for, it would be beneficial in the future for there to be a uniform approach to marine protected area designation and protection.


Biodiversity, Data, Psychology, Regulation