There are currently more than 5000 designated marine protected areas around the globe. Together, they cover an area of approximately 2.85 million square kilometres which represents just 0.8 percent of the world’s 361 square kilometres of ocean and just 2 percent of the oceans that fall under national jurisdiction. Of the global marine area that is protected, only 300,000 square kilometres of the global marine protected areas are a marine reserve, representing just 10 percent.
Off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, the Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area also includes Pierce Seamount (also called Davidson Seamount) and Hodgkins Seamount and has been described as a rare and ecologically rich marine area. Covering an area of 6,131 square kilometres, the Bowie Seamount Marine is the northernmost of the two Marine Protected Areas on the British Columbia Coast; the southernmost is the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents of the Juan de Fuca Ridge 250 km south west of Vancouver Island. The government took action in 2008 to ensure the Bowie Seamount Marine area is protected and works in partnership with the Council of the Haida Nation and groups like the World Wildlife Fund-Canada, to ensure this unique treasure is preserved for future generations.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest and best known coral reef ecosystem in the world. With almost 300o reefs equalling 10 percent of the world’s coral reef areas, it supports a biodiversity that includes thousands of coral and other invertebrate species, bony fish, sharks, rays, marine mammals, marine turtles, sea snakes, as well as algae and other marine plants.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is recorded as a multiple-use Marine Park. This means it supports a wide range of uses, including commercial marine tourism, ports and shipping, scientific research and Indigenous traditional use. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority regulates fishing and the removal of coral, seashells and other wildlife or artefacts from the area. Zoning plans provide strict shipping routes avoiding the most sensitive areas of the park. The authority are also responsible for Traditional Owner agreements, partnerships, stewardship and best practice, education, research and monitoring and reporting.
In the seas of Italy, Monaco and France what was originally known as the International Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary is a Marine Protected Area aimed at the protection of marine mammals. It is also reported to be the main feeding ground for Fin Whales in the area. Covering an area of approximately 84,000 square kilometres the area includes the French Riviera, western Sardinia, eastern Sardinia and Tuscany.
Established in 1999 and added to the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) list, the sanctuary is found in the Ligurian basin of the Mediterranean Sea where all the cetaceans found in the Mediterranean can be spotted at regular intervals.
109 kilometres west of Key West is a national park that preserves the large, but unfinished, coastal fortress of Fort Jefferson, made from 16 million bricks, and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated, and the least disturbed, of the Florida Keys reefs. The park is accessible only by seaplane or boat with more than 60,000 visitors annually who swim, fish, dive or kayak or camp, birdwatch and picnic.
The park has an abundance of sea life, tropical bird breeding grounds, coral reefs, and legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures. Dry Tortugas is a largely undisturbed tropical ecosystem with significant historic artefacts and is part of the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve, established by UNESCO in 1976 under its Man and the Biosphere Programme.
A World Heritage listed US. National Monument covering 1.5 million square kilometres of ocean waters, it includes ten islands and atolls of the North western Hawaiian Islands, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the world's second largest protected area. Commercial fishing is banned and the area is only open for Native Hawaiian use and limited tourism. It is an area that has deep significance for living Native Hawaiian culture, with archaeological remains relating to pre-European settlement and use. Of 7,000 species living here, 25 percent are local to the region including many endangered Hawaiian animals, for example the Hawaiian Monk seal, Nihoa finch, and Laysan albatross.
Covering 408,250 square kilometres in the Central Pacific Ocean and managed by the Republic of Kiribati in collaboration with Conservation International and the New England Aquarium, this area is mostly uninhabited coral islands. The only way to visit the islands is by private plane or boat.
Birdlife International has named 5 of the islands in this system as important bird areas and the surrounding waters shelter around 514 fish species. The native plants and animals are threatened by invasive species, such as rats, that could alter the balance of biodiversity. In 2010, it became the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage site in the world.
Established in 1980, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is located off the Pacific coast of Southern California. Covering an area of 3,800 square kilometres, including the waters around 5 of the 8 Channel Islands of California. The sanctuary has a diverse collection of marine species and is considered one of the best places in the world for viewing whales and other wildlife. The sanctuary also protects more than 150 historic shipwrecks and is a place of important cultural significance for the Chumash people.
Located between the coast of north western continental Europe and the range of Frisian Islands, the Wadden Sea is a shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands. It is rich in biological diversity with plants and animals including the grey seal and harbour porpoise. The Wadden Sea was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2009 when the Dutch and German parts were listed. The Danish part was added later in 2014.