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Highly Protected
Why fully & highly protected

By protecting ocean areas from destructive human uses, fully and highly protected areas allow damaged marine ecosystems and species to recover and prevent exploitation of healthy areas.

Protected areas conserve entire ecosystems by restricting human activities and are among the most effective approaches to biodiversity conservation. However, not all protected areas are created equal. The level of protection, as determined by the regulations and restricted activities, determines the expected conservation outcomes. For example, a minimally protected area that restricts use of a single fishing gear and allows all others will not achieve the same conservation benefits as a no-take area, which restricts all extractive activities.

Protecting biodiversity in fully and highly protected areas increases the abundance and diversity of marine life.

Fully and highly protected areas are areas of the coastal or marine environment that allow minimal or no extractive or other damaging practices, such as fishing, mining, and oil and gas development. Studies have shown that fully and highly protected areas result in the greatest conservation benefits, while protected areas with less regulations and more human activities afford minimal conservation benefits.

Protecting biodiversity in fully and highly protected areas increases the abundance and diversity of marine life exported to surrounding areas, both securing food resources for millions of people and preventing loss of species. With well-designed and managed fully and highly protected areas, and especially networks of such areas, we can achieve international conservation goals, restore healthy oceans, and conserve marine biodiversity.

Marine Conservation Institute supports fully and highly protected areas because they:

Protect entire ecosystems including habitat and ecosystem function

Protect habitats and ecosystems from destructive fishing practices and other harmful, human activities and allow damaged areas and ecosystems to recover

Protect biodiversity at three levels: ecosystem, species and genetic

Serve as benchmarks to compare with unprotected or altered ecosystems to assess human impact and improve management

Increase resilience to protect against potentially damaging external impacts, such as climate change

Provide areas where fish are able to reproduce, spawn and grow to their adult size

Increase fish catches (both size and quantity) in surrounding fishing grounds

Help to maintain local cultures, economies, and livelihoods which are intricately linked to the marine environment

Provide refuges for endangered and commercial species

To learn more about how we assess and measure protection levels, check out our MPA Assessments.

Now is the time to act.

Marine Conservation Institute works to improve marine protection by advocating for stronger ocean protections, tracking conservation progress in the Marine Protection Atlas, and strengthening marine protections through Blue Parks. We are working to save the ocean for all of us and future generations.

Each and every one of us can make a difference.