Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) play a crucial role in safeguarding the rich diversity of life in our oceans.

They provide a safe haven for fish, endangered species and their habitats. While MPAs are usually designed to enhance biodiversity, they can also complement fisheries management actions and enhance other economic activity such as tourism.

Well designed networks of ecologically-representative MPAs can afford better protection against environmental change, such as climate change.

© Annabelle Sandes / Kimberley Media © Annabelle Sandes / Kimberley Media © Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon © Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon © Darren Jew © Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon © Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon © Paul Gamblin / WWF-Aus © Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon © Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon

The problem is that only a small fraction of the world’s oceans are contained within MPAs; far below what leading marine scientists recommend. Of the MPAs that have been established internationally, only a small proportion are achieving their management objectives; and internationally, the majority are open to fishing. Considering the vast scale of our oceans, the process of monitoring and enforcing restrictions poses a major challenge in the effective implementation of MPAs.

As MPAs are established around Australia and in other parts of the world, there is growing evidence, published in peer reviewed scientific journals, showing the positive impacts of MPAs. These effects vary according to many variables but provide strong foundations for the further, systematic design of MPA networks in Australia and beyond.

There are also international agreements which make clear the importance of MPAs in protecting the animals and plants of the world’s oceans, and provide greater impetus for action in Australia, which has the world’s third largest marine jurisdiction.



Australia's network of Commonwealth marine reserves © Commonwealth of Australia 2012

Thank you for supporting our marine wildlife!

Corals Clerke Channel, Rowley Shoals. / ©: Annabelle Sandes / Kimberley Media
This year has seen the creation of the world’s largest network of Marine Protected Areas around Australia and WWF supporters were critical in spurring the process on through advocacy and support.

WWF supporters took part in the submissions process, writing [in] to the Federal Government by the thousands, demanding world class protection for the whales, turtles and dolphins that call our waters home, along with the reefs and other features that sustain them.

While this was an immense success for Australia’s oceans, there is more to be done and WWF and our partners are working hard to secure protection for iconic places such as the Rowley Shoals and Ningaloo Reef, which are still under threat from oil and gas exploration.

To find out more about these campaigns and how you can help, please sign up here to receive updates about WWF-Australia’s cutting-edge marine conservation work.