Marine Protected Areas


Life on earth began in the seas which harbors a wider range of biological diversity than land. Despite the fact that a majority of life forms exist in the oceans and seas, and that they are, the biggest provider of human sustenance in many countries and the most common means of goods transport, they are increasingly becoming degraded due to wide neglect and their status as common property.

IUCN defines marine protected areas as: "Any area of intertidal or sub-tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment," MPAs are ocean areas that have been demarcated with limited human activity, or in some cases total prohibition, to conserve and protect  the natural marine resources, ecosystems and genetic diversity. In addition to ecological objectives marine protected areas also serve to ensure human welfare, education, recreation and cultural preservation. They are generally governed with more stringent regulations than surrounding areas.

Despite two thirds of the earth surface is covered by oceans, marine protected areas only makes up a fraction of terrestrial protected areas. Coastal areas remain poorly represented in the national protected area networks of the countries participating in MFF, and many vitally important or threatened coastal ecosystems do not have protected status. Greater representation is required to address these gaps in coverage, and to ensure that critical ecosystems are conserved.

As part of the MFF preparatory activities a gap analysis to review existing protected area coverage, identify regionally or nationally under-represented ecosystems, and recommend areas in need of additional protection was conducted. The MFF countries are at different stages in developing their protected area systems, and needs vary accordingly. Even where good intended protected areas have been established in coastal areas, some remain “paper parks”, as there is weak capacity and inadequate funding to manage them effectively. There is also a strong need to support measures to improve management effectiveness, including designing protected areas for resilience linked to climate change, improved integration with tourism, support to participatory management approaches, improving buffer zone management, and identifying sustainable financing mechanisms. MFF has approved its first large project under this PoW,” Evaluating and improving the management effectiveness of Thailand's Marine and Coastal Protected Areas.

For details about Actions, Outputs and Results, click [ + ]

Programmes of WorkActions/OutputsContribution to results
13. Building national systems of marine and coastal protected areas that contribute to a regional network
  1. Gap analysis to review existing protected area coverage, identify regionally or nationally under-represented ecosystems, and recommend areas in need of additional protection.

  2. Assessment of management effectiveness of existing protected areas leading to the development of strategies for management improvements.

  3. Support to the development of new, or strengthening of existing, protected areas in critical or under-represented coastal ecosystems.

  4. Supporting a regional forum and learning network to share knowledge and approaches on protected area management.

  5. Development of codes of conduct for the tourism industry for the use of protected areas.
  • More sustainable, equitable and effective protection, and where necessary rehabilitation, of coastal ecosystems

  • Enhanced action in coastal conservation through partnership with the private sector

  • Increased and more effective investment of funds in coastal ecosystem management

  • Improved participation in, support for, and benefit from, ecosystem conservation among coastal dwellers, especially women

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