What is a Marine Protected Area?
A Marine Protected Area is defined as an area designated and effectively managed to protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats, and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic, and cultural enrichment.
Why are Marine Protected Areas important?
Never in the history of humanity has the health of the oceans been more threatened, and more important to our well-being. The costly decline of ocean health impacts people and is made worse by the disastrous effects of climate change.
Like national parks and nature reserves that protect important habitats and species on land, marine protected areas (MPAs) are crucial for conserving and restoring the health of ecosystems at sea. When a portion of the sea is well protected, marine life thrives again and local communities can catch more fish.
We need more MPAs in the “right places” – where the conservation need is most urgent and where the potential for their contribution, for both humans and wildlife, at its highest. With well-designed and managed MPAs, and especially networks of such areas, we can boost the health of ecosystems and help turn around the downward trends of marine biodiversity.
Integrated Ocean Management recognises that protection of biodiversity cannot be delivered via a network of MPAs in isolation of the wider management of the oceans and seas and that networks of MPAs, nested within systems of wider marine spatial planning can help to deliver protection of marine biodiversity as well as a Sustainable Blue Economy.
Under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), countries have committed to effectively protect 10% of their marine and coastal waters by 2020. The Baltic countries have made some progress, by achieving the 10% target by 2010, yet all countries in the region are failing to adequately provide the protection needed to sustain and restore productivity and resilience in the current areas. Only 7% of the total 16% marine area designated as MPAs have a robust, long-term management plan in place to ensure biodiversity protection.
It is equally important to set aside MPAs as it is to consider their location and connectivity to form a network that protects a range of habitats biodiversity and zones of high economic value that span from the coast to deep offshore areas. WWF report ‘Protecting Our Ocean’ found MPAs in the Baltic Sea were too far apart to successfully connect habitats and species. The low representation of different habitats and connection to each other means that these areas are failing to function together as a network.
Through our network, we work to create larger and more coherent MPAs so that marine biodiversity can thrive undisturbed. On initiative by WWF Denmark is the successful restoration of stone reefs, which has helped to revive the underwater life of Danish coasts
WWF wants to see an effective network of marine protected areas (MPAs) across the Baltic Sea to conserve and restore 30% of the marine waters by 2030.
- Increase the total number of marine protected areas within the framework of the Helsinki Commission, HELCOM,
- Create a coherent network of protected areas in the Baltic
- Promote effective management plans for all marine protected areas
- Protect fish stocks and preserve natural ecosystems by closing certain sea areas for fishing