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New Report Shows that Most G20 Member Countries Are Strongly Protecting Less than 1% of the Ocean Area in their Jurisdiction

Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in protecting marine biodiversity, will unveil a report today at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, that shows how well G20 (Group of Twenty) countries are protecting their ocean areas. Similar to the annual SeaStates US report that Marine Conservation Institute last issued in June 2014, which looks at each of the US States’ marine protection levels, SeaStates G20 2014 provides data on each of the G20 member countries’ protection levels. It also provides a high-level overview and assessment of each member country’s programs around marine protected areas.

The G20 is a forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. The members include 19 individual countries—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States—and the European Union (EU).

Of the G20 member countries, only four have protected more than 1% of their oceans in no-take (strongly protected) reserves. No-take marine reserves are the strongest form of marine protected area as they safeguard marine life from the harmful effects of fishing and other extractive uses, such as oil and gas drilling. The United States leads G20 member countries with 9.88% of its waters strongly protected. The United Kingdom is a close second with 9.73% of its waters strongly protected. South Africa takes third place with 4.46% strongly protected, followed closely by Australia, which strongly protects 4.13%.

The rest of the G20 member countries are strongly protecting less than 1% of the ocean area in their respective jurisdictions. In order of strong protection levels, from most to least, the remaining countries are Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, South Korea (Republic of Korea), Indonesia, Italy, Canada, China, Mexico, India Brazil, Turkey, France, Argentina and Japan.

A clear trend that was discovered in the SeaStates G20 analysis is that most of the G20 countries’ no-take marine reserves are designated in areas that are in their remote and distant waters. For example, the United Kingdom has only three small no-take areas in their domestic waters while the majority of their strongly protected marine waters are found in their distant territories. In fact, the top three countries, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa, all have the largest amount of their no-take reserves in remote waters. Protecting large distant areas, such as the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) is a positive recent trend in ocean conservation. However, countries also need to protect areas that experience greater levels of human impact, such as fishing and oil and gas development. These practices are more intense closer to the countries themselves and, therefore, establishing strongly protected marine reserves in these near-country locations becomes a critical piece of conservation.

“G20 member countries have the financial means to strongly protect our oceans for future generations. The world needs them to step up and demonstrate leadership in establishing more no-take marine reserves, both in their near and distant waters.” said Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute. “We are seeing some movement in the right direction, but at this slow rate, marine life is headed towards extinction.”

In general, reserves enhance ecosystems by keeping natural processes intact and providing resiliency for the animals that live there. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown increases in diversity, size of individuals and the overall abundance of animals in no-take marine reserves. Reserves also replenish fish and invertebrate populations outside their boundaries. Strong protection also allows female fishes and invertebrates to live longer, grow larger and produce far more eggs.

Less than 2% of the world’s oceans are strongly protected, far less than the 20% recommended as a minimum by marine scientists. To encourage world leaders to take up the challenge, in October 2013, Marine Conservation Institute initiated the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced glôr-ees), a strategic, science-based way to safeguard marine ecosystems on a global scale. GLORES is designed to catalyze strong protection for at least 20% of the ecosystems in each marine biogeographic region by 2030, enough to avert mass extinction.

About Marine Conservation Institute 
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 the world create an urgently-needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas—the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES)—a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure future diversity and abundance of marine life. Founded in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute is a US-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington DC. For more information, please go to:

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