“What is a Marine Protected Area Anyway?” Latest Edition to Ocean Watch Essay Series - Sailors for the Sea

“What is a Marine Protected Area Anyway?” Latest Edition to Ocean Watch Essay Series

Press Release

Newport, Rhode Island – June 5, 2013 – Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation nonprofit focused on the sailing and boating community, today published What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) Anyway?

This month’s Ocean Watch Essay, contributed by Rachel Keyon, senior ocean policy fellow, Marine Conservation Institute, focuses on marine protected areas (MPAs) – what they are, where they are located, why they are important and who they benefit. MPAs, also called marine parks, marine refuges, marine reserves, and marine sanctuaries, are used to conserve the ocean – ecologically, historically, and/or culturally – to allow species to thrive.

The ocean and local waters face many threats that range from pollution to overfishing and destructive fishing practices, and from climate change to ocean acidification. Fortunately, some areas of the ocean are untouched by humans which provides protection against these threats. MPAs provide refuges where marine life is protected from some or all human pressures allowing marine environments to grow, thrive, and replenish the broader ocean. The benefits of MPAs to marine ecosystem and coastal communities include allowing marine species to recover, and protecting essential marine habitats from destructive fishing practices.

Countries around the world have embraced the use of MPAs to protect their coastal oceans and marine life, and some nations have even gone so far as to designate large portions of their exclusive economic zones as marine protected areas, such as Chagos Island in the Indian Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The regulations and names associated with each MPA and its protections vary wildly. For example, no-take MPAs are firmly enforced and prohibit extractive uses and human activities such as commercial and recreational fishing. Others are minimally restrictive with only moderate restrictions on specific ecological threats like oil drilling or bottom trawling. One of the biggest threats to MPAs is people who fail to follow regulations either purposefully or unknowingly.

All humans as ocean users should educate themselves about the MPAs they may encounter during coastal and high seas travel. Such education can improved compliance with the regulations established to protect these vital ocean areas, and to help the ocean and marine life recover. Resources for learning more about specific MPAs and related regulations, include:

  • MyNOAACharts mobile app, which can be downloaded at Google Play Store
  • MPAtlas.org, an online tool which provides information on all of the world’s MPAs
  • Country-specific travel guides and travel bureau websites

What you can do:

  • Learn more about marine protected areas, including the marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Download information on MPAs to your smartphone or tablet in advance of your next sailing expedition.
  • Spread your knowledge by sharing this information with family and friends.
  • Use sustainable sailing practices, some of which can be found here.
  • Support ocean conservation by making a donation to Sailors for the Sea.
  • Donate to the Marine Conservation Institute to support efforts to create and safeguard marine protected areas.

The essay is available at


More about the Ocean Watch Essay Program
The Ocean Watch Essay program, a free online resource accessible through the Sailors for the Sea website, provides a constant stream of updated articles on current ocean issues such as ocean acidification, plastics, nonpoint source pollution, and invasive species. Each essay is accompanied by information on how individuals can make a difference in relation to the issue, creating a linkage from knowledge to personal action. Whenever possible, the program also provides information about activities, events, and opportunities, such as lectures, classes, and beach and ocean water clean ups, for people to take action to preserve, protect, and improve the health of the ocean and coastal waters. To see the entire library of Ocean Watch Essays visit http://www.sailorsforthesea.org/sailing-and-the-environment/ocean-watch/ocean-watch-essays.aspx.

About Sailors for the Sea
Founded in 2004, Sailors for the Sea is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and local waters. For more information on or to participate in any of the Sailors for the Sea programs, or to support the organization, visit www.sailorsforthesea.org.