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30 x 30 — Protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030

Today, approximately 3% of the global ocean is protected in marine protected areas that have strong enough regulations to safeguard biodiversity. Marine Conservation Institute uses the latest science to guide our mission of protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.

Blue Parks - Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, The Philippines
Photo: Yvette Lee

     From kelp forests as tall as redwood trees to warm-water sanctuaries where enormous whales give birth, ocean places rival the grandeur and diversity of familiar national parks. Submarine canyons, like Monterey Canyon, are equal to the wonder or the Grand Canyon. Hawaii's northwestern islands are an iconic seascape that shines as bright as Yellowstone National Park. Just as parks on land are held in trust and set aside for the greater good of all citizens, marine protected areas (MPAs) are underwater refuges where the beauty and health of marine ecosystems can be preserved on our quickly changing planet. 

     Research clearly demonstrates that MPAs are a simple and effective way to sustain marine biodiversity and build resilience. Marine protection works. Well-managed MPAs can reverse the effects of overfishing, strengthen fragile coral communities, and protect ourselves and our neighbors--locally and globally--from rising sea levels and strengthening storm systems. 

   At a time of accelerating climate change, dwindling fisheries, and encroaching sea levels that threaten the 3.5 billion people that live in coastal areas, Marine Conservation Institute joins a chorus of scientists who advocate for safeguarding the world’s oceans through well-managed Marine Protected Areas. Time is not on our side and there is an urgent need to accelerate protection for at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.

Join us in advocating for 30% protection by 2030. Donate to make our oceans healthier for us and future generations.

A (Marine) Conservation Carol: A Visit from the Ghost of Conservation Past

By Beth Pike | January 12, 2021

A Decade (2011 – 2020) of Marine Conservation in Review Declared the UN Decade of Biodiversity, the past ten years brought about a lot of change in the field of marine conservation. At the beginning of the decade, the conservation of our oceans lagged behind the efforts to protect land with only about 2% of…

Coalition urges support to protect and conserve at least 30% of the global ocean.

By Beth Pike | January 12, 2021

Marine Conservation Institute Joins Coalition Statement to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Support of Conserving 30% of the Global Ocean “We need more humility as humans” and to give nature the respect it deserves, so we can “guarantee the future of the next generation, and this future begins now.”- Ludovic Burns Tuki The statement…

Ten Triumphs from 2020

By Marine Conservation Institute | December 30, 2020

In a year of bleak headlines, here are our favorite newsworthy highlights to rekindle your hope for the ocean in 2021 No doubt about it: this has been a year of exhausting news. From the ongoing global pandemic to nerve-wracking threats to marine protections both globally (such as the Chinese fishing fleet amassed just outside…

Scientist Support for 30% by 2030

We are at a crucial time for ocean conservation. Key decisions in the near future will set the course for a decade of action which will define the future of the sea.


We are at a crucial time for ocean conservation. Key decisions in the near future will set the course for a decade of action which will define the future of the sea. We, the undersigned, call on you to support an ambitious global target through the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Post-2020 Framework, to safeguard at least 30% of the ocean in a network of highly or fully protected, well managed marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) by 2030.

Ocean health is vital to all life on Earth, yet is in a state of decline. Human activities are driving significant overfishingi, the loss of marine biodiversityii, the destruction of coastal environments, pollution of marine habitats and the warming, acidification, and deoxygenation of the ocean, threatening not only marine life, but the wellbeing of people today and into the future. The current target to protect 10% of the ocean by 2020 (codified in the CBD and Sustainable Development Goals), while a good start, is not sufficient to reverse biodiversity loss or help mitigate the impacts of rapid global change.

Scientific evidence suggests that to secure a healthy, productive, and resilient marine environment, at least 30% of the world’s ocean must be safeguarded in a network of well managed MPAs and OECMsiii. It has been shown that protected areas that do not allow industrial extraction such as long-line fishing or deep-sea mining are crucial to restore and protect biodiversity.iv, v, vi

We are inspired by the progress the world has made on ocean protection over the past ten years. At the same time, we note with concern that a number of countries’ submissions to the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA)vii, the global database used by the United Nations to measure progress against the 10% goal, do not meet minimum international standards, such as those established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)viii, which require the prohibition of industrial extractive activity. These commitments provide little to no biological benefits and give a skewed impression of progress against global ocean protection targets. By some estimates, a third of the area identified as protected in the WDPA does not meet minimum international standards for MPAs. Global conservation efforts are being undermined by accrediting protected areas that do not support the recovery of the ocean. The levels of protection for biodiversity within these sites must quickly be enhanced to render them effective.

Over the coming months and years, it is critical that existing and new ecologically representative protected areas cover at least 30% of the ocean, meet the IUCN’s standards for protected areasix, and are effectively managedx. A high level of protection is necessary for a high level of benefit. This is the only way to secure a sustainable and abundant ocean and to build resilience against emerging threats such as climate change. Marine life and the indigenous people and local communities that depend on the ocean for their food and livelihoods rely on leaders like you to help the world deliver on ambitious ocean protection targets.

We call on you to support a global call to protect and conserve at least 30% of the ocean and to preserve the integrity of the term “marine protected area”. Weakening this standard will not get us to our goal of protecting global ocean health, which is vital to all the people of this world.

i  FAO report, “State of the Worlds’ Fisheries and Aquaculture” (2018)

ii  IPBES report, “Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” (2019)

iii  Bethan C. O’Leary et al., “Effective Coverage Targets for Ocean Protection,” Conservation Letters 9, no. 6 (2016): 398-404

iv  Graham J. Edgar et al., “Global Conservation Outcomes Depend on Marine Protected Areas with Five Key Features,” Nature 506, no. 7487 (2014): 216-20

v  Sarah E. Lester et al., “Biological Effects Within No-Take Marine Reserves: A Global Synthesis,” Marine Ecology Progress Series 384 (2009): 33-46

vi  Enric Sala et al “Assessing real progress towards effective ocean protection”, Marine Policy Volume 91 (2018): Pages 11-13

vii  World Database of Protected Areas

viii  International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Commission on Protected Areas, “Guidelines for applying the IUCN protected area management categories to marine protected areas” (2019)

ix  International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Commission on Protected Areas, “Applying IUCN’s Global Conservation Standards to Marine Protected Areas (MPA)” (2018)

x  David Gill et al “Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally” Nature. 30;543(7647) (2017). 665-669