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Announcing the First Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) Awards for Superlative Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Around the World

Washington, D.C. — Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in securing protection for the oceans’ most important places, announces the first-ever Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced “glories”) awards. This initiative is designed to incentivize marine conservation through recognizing the most effective marine protected areas (MPAs) according to science-based standards. Movies have the Oscars®, the Olympics® have medals, restaurants have Michelin® stars, energy efficient buildings have LEED® certification. Until now Blue Parks, Marine Reserves, or MPAs have had no rating system to highlight the best among them. The objective of this innovative, new award system is to increase the amount and quality of MPA coverage around the world to meet the UN goal of 10% of the ocean protected by 2020 and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) goal of 30% of the ocean protected by 2030. Today, according to the MPAtlas, only 3% of the world’s oceans have been designated as a marine protected area of any kind, and only 1.6% of the ocean is strongly protected in no-take marine reserves, the most effective form of conserving and recovering marine life.

Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute said, “Marine Conservation Institute has worked closely with our GLORES Science Council composed of well-known marine scientists to create a system similar to Michelin Stars® for marine protected areas. Our principle objective has been to build market and reputation incentives for governments around the world to create marine reserves with high levels of protection in the most critical places in the world’s oceans. We believe GLORES awards will speed the creation of strong marine reserves and strengthen the protections in existing ones. GLORES awarded marine reserves will function just like the parks we have on land that protect wildlife inside whole ecosystems and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.”

Three of the nominees this year were judged by the GLORES Science Council to be worthy of Platinum –the highest– status. The 2017 award winners are:

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument – United States
Size: 1,508,870 km2

“Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area under the U.S. flag, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses 582,578 square miles of the Pacific Ocean, an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.”*

Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary – Colombia
Size: 8,575 km2

“A World Heritage Site, [it] is an isolated oceanic habitat of extremely rich marine life in very good condition which is important to the maintenance and dispersal of the marine life of the Eastern Tropical Pacific. It has some of the best diving in the world” **

Tubbataha Reefs Nature Park – The Philippines
Size: 970.0 km2

”Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whale species, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles”***


Global Ocean Refuges are evaluated according to clear, science-based criteria, including:

  1. Is the MPA in an important area for marine life of various types or rare creatures? Does it improve connectivity with other refuges or cover a marine ecosystem that has no protection yet?
  2. Is the MPA well managed with adequate staff, resources and enforcement? Does it have strong regulations that exclude some or all harmful activities like overfishing, bottom trawling, or mining, drilling and dredging?
  3. Is the MPA large enough, old enough, designed well enough and managed with the local community to work effectively?

GLORES awards are not designed to displace other organizations’ MPA systems or imply that Marine Conservation Institute had a role to play in their creation. The vision of GLORES is to encourage international collaboration and to amplify the stature of valuable ocean areas across initiatives such as Mission Blue Hope Spots, Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, National Geographic Pristine Seas, UNESCO World Heritage and others.

Marine scientists and explorers, businessmen who make their living based on healthy oceans, surfers, and marine photographers who connect us to the oceans with their wonderful images have endorsed the idea of the GLORES award system for the best MPAs around the world. Each, based on his or her own deep connection to the ocean and the marine life that lives in it, recognizes the importance of the GLORES effort.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, a world famous marine explorer, former chief scientist of NOAA, and founder of Mission Blue said, “The Global Ocean Refuge System is critical to saving the biodiversity of our oceans. It makes so much sense, we all should have thought of it a long time ago.”

“My experience engaging with Hawai‘i stakeholders on the Papahānaumokuākea expansion left me with hope for the future,” said Senator Schatz.  “It was hard work to refine the details but the overwhelming support for the expansion made it possible to find consensus and move forward to protect the Pacific Ocean. I am confident that more and more communities will be inspired to follow, and I believe that today’s awards will help keep the momentum going.”

“There is a momentous moral decision confronting humanity today as we ponder how to care for our planet. Suitable habitat, crucial to nature’s survival, is shrinking fast. Currently, about 15% of the global land surface and 3% of the global ocean surface are protected in nature reserves, but only if we conserve 50% or more can we protect the bulk of our planet’s biodiversity. The time has come to achieve a sustainable coexistence with the rest of life and raise our conservation efforts to a new level.” 

Professor E.O. Wilson from



Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly-experienced marine scientists and environmental policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s goal is to help create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—as a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure the future diversity and abundance of marine life. To enhance marine protection efforts in the U.S. and around the globe, Marine Conservation Institute also built the world’s most comprehensive online marine protected area database,


For more information on Marine Conservation Institute, GLORES or the MPAtlas, go to:


For more information, media and bloggers only, please contact:

Lance Morgan, President, Marine Conservation Institute –in Chile at IMPAC4 announcing awards September 4-8.
Cell   707 217-8242
WhatsApp  1 707 217 8242
Skype name  Lance.E.Morgan

Matt Coomer, Conservation Projects and Communications Coordinator – in U.S.
Office  206 686-3038
Cell  612 618-4758

Mike Gravitz, Director of Policy and Legislation – in U.S.
Office  202 546-5346
Cell  301 351-5052


Background papers and video about GLORES available at:


GLORES Site Contacts and Source of Pictures & Video

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (United States)

Athline Clark, NOAA Superintendent
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

For more information, please visit:

Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia)

Paola Andrea Rojas Malagón, Manager
Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary

For more information, please visit:

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (The Philippines)

Angelique M. Songco, Manager
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

For more information, please visit:


  1. IMPAC4 Highlights Pt. 1 | On the Tide on September 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    […] awarded the world’s first Global Ocean Refuges! It was our honor to recognize Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument, Tubbataha Reefs […]

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