MPA networks around the world

Regional, national or international network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are nowadays present or in development in a lot of countries around the world.

These "human" networks support the development of ecological networks of MPAs that respond to Aichi target to protect 10% of Regional Seas. This support takes several forms including

  • advocacy at the regional and international levels, 
  • networking of different actors in charge of creating new MPAs and extending existing MPAs, enhancing common understanding and scientific knowledge at the regional level through sharing and collaboration,
  • developing regional databases and analyses of MPAs to give an overview of existing MPAs, their ecological coherence and gaps and formulating recommendations for a better integration of the ecological network of MPAs into Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Zone Management frameworks.
  • They also improve MPA management effectiveness through capacity building, exchanges among MPA managers, promoting lessons learnt and best practices, promoting participative governance, and developing management guidelines etc…
  • Finally they play a key role in mainstreaming environment into development activities and advocating for governance at multiple levels in multiple sectors and cultures.

During the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, MedPAN and other networks have initiated a joint mobilisation to strengthen their action. Download the leaflet published for this opportunity

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of these networks:

Europe - Trans-Atlantic - Americas / Caribbean - Africa / Middle-East / Persian Gulf - Asia - Oceania - Worldwide


In Europe, the "Birds" and "Habitats" directives caused the creation of the Natura 2000 network.  It is composed of terrestrial and marine areas with a rich biodiversity. When those sites are linked to birds, they are Special Protection Zones (SPZ) and when they're linked to wildlife and habitat conservation, they are Special Conservation Zones (SCZ). Natura 2000 marine sites are considered as MPAs and there are 507 of them nowadays in the Mediterranean Sea, representing 25 243 km2 of marine surface. 

Although this is the biggest protected total surface in Europe, Natura 2000 sites' perimeter  can sometimes overlap on other MPAs and the additional surface covered by those site amounts to 8 101km2.*

* source: Mediterranean Sea Marine Protected Areas Status., 2012. MedPAN, RAC/SPA.

The ESI initiative (European Straits Initiative), launched in 2009 by the Pas-de-Calais and the Kent concerns only straits. This organization has 15 partner countries and 8 straits projects. It wants to make straits value and importance recognized on a political level and to create a cooperation network in order to set up European scale projects.


Concerning specific seas or countries:

  • HELCOM is the commission on the Baltic Sea environmental protection, created by the Helsinki Convention more than forty years ago. It aims to protect the Baltic Sea from pollution thanks to a collaborative effort between the European Union, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Russia.
  • The PISCES (Partnership Involving Stakeholders in the Celtic Sea Ecosystem) Project is a partnership between the stakeholders of the Celtic Sea and Western Channel's ecosystem.  It is supported by WWF and those stakeholders come from England, Wales, Ireland, France and Spain and from a variety of sectors like renewable energies, tourism, shipping, fishing… They put heads together and produced a set of guidelines for the implementation of an ecosystem approach in the management of the Celtic Sea.
  • In Italia, two MPAs, Miramare and Torre del Cerrano, decided the creation of an exchange and solidarity network between the MPAs of the Adriatic Sea:  AdriaPAN. It is a growing network with almost 40 MPAs members and about 30 partners. AdriaPAN has many projects in the making for the Adriatic Sea. 
  • The Marine Protected Areas forum in metropolitan France and overseas is an exchange network for MPAs ‘managers whose goal is the capitalization of a maximum of technical information so that it would benefit all MPAs. It works in collaboration with TeMeUM (UltraMarine Lands and Seas) which is a program dedicated to overseas MPAs ‘managers.


In the Northeast Atlantic zone:

  • OSPAR, whose name comes from a homonymous convention, is a commission regrouping 15 nations, and which works with the European Union for the protection of the marine environment of this region. OSPAR is in favour of the integrated management of human activities into marine environment.
  • MAIA, launched in 2010, aims at establishing a network of functional, valued and perennial MPAs through field actions, meetings, situations and needs assessments, creation of a shared database built on and by MPAs and so on. The MAIA network wants to benefit from the experiences of managers to develop a better understanding and launch new projects.  
  • PANACHE is a project dealing with MPAs located in the Channel. Its goal is to establish a network between them as well as help their management, their data and experience sharing and raise awareness to the public. PANACHE is financed by INTERREG France-England unites 12 partners and stakeholders of this area.


  • Towards a Trans-Atlantic MPA partnership. The European Commission has set up a new project to promote cooperation between managers of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in countries and territories around the Atlantic Ocean. It is designed to stimulate exchange and the sharing of best practice to improve the effective management of MPAs in coastal and offshore areas of the Atlantic. Download the leaflet

Americas / Caribbean

In North America, under the aegis of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), several MPAs networks have been created. The biggest one links the US, Canada and Mexico and is called the NAMPAN (North American Protected Areas Network).

The Pacific Northwest coast is also part of an international project, B2B (Baja to Behring), attached to the American Marine Conservation Institute.

The NOAA also set up numerous regional projects like:

  • The Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC)
  • The West Coast Governor's Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA)
  • The South Atlantic Alliance (SAA)
  • The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA)

These projects share the same goals: establishment of MPAs, biodiversity protection, development of sustainable activities for riparian populations, management efficiency for the existing MPAs.


  • The Caribbean is also very active in this field. The biggest network and forum is probably the CaMPAM (Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management network), launched in 1997 in the framework of the UNEP-Caribbean Environment Program. The CaMPAM and SPAW-RAC are organisations that work on the implementation of the SPAW protocol (Specially Protected Area and Wildlife), ratified in 2000 by 16 countries of the Caribbean. 
  • The SPAW-RAC is the Regional Activity Centre which ensures this implementation. It is a dynamical cooperation tool between MPAs and their different projects.
  • In Central America, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS) project brings together Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras and helps these nations improve the protection of this unique and ecologically vulnerable environment by developing a data management system and promoting and economically sustainable exploitation of the barrier reef, especially by focusing on tourism and fishing. Besides, the MBRS project wants to better environmental management capacities at a local and national level through training and information sharing.
  • On the Eastern Tropical Pacific side, a regional cooperation initiative called CMAR (Corridor MARino) was created for the conservation and the sustainable use of marine resources. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama rejoined this project, which has now under its protection 5 parks and national sanctuaries. Three of them are classed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Africa / Middle-East / Persian Gulf

In West Africa:

  • The RAMPAO (West African Marine Protected Areas Network), created in 2007, works on the coordination of 27 MPAs split between Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia. It aims at protecting the region's habitats and biodiversity sites as they are critically important in the ecological processes. To do it, it wants to promote information sharing, create synergy between the MPAs and improve their operational efficiency as well as their representation at a political level.
  • The Abidjan Convention, implemented since 1984, was ratified by 22 African countries bordering the South-eastern Atlantic shore.  This convention is an agreement on the protection and management of coastal and marine zones. Its main objectives are the control and reduction of pollution as well as the management of natural phenomenon like erosion.
  • Some of the countries belonging to these networks are under a lot of pressure. To deal with it in an easier way, they decided to set up a Regional Partnership for the Preservation of Coastal and Marine zones (PRCM) in Western Africa. It is a very elaborate support and solidarity network with goals similar to those of the RAMPAO.

In Eastern Africa:

  • WWF pilots a project in collaboration with the coastal states (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique…) for the protection of the marine environment but the poverty in these countries is an impediment to MPAs' development. 
  • A network regrouping countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean shore exists. It is the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA). This association works for the technical, scientific and educational development of marine sciences in order to reach a better resources conservation.  It offers a forum to exchange, grants for scientific research, training for coastal managers and workgroups on science, management and legislation.   
  • The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) has also created a network for MPAs' managers. It includes 26 MPAs, split between Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Reunion. It set up a forum allowing experience sharing and the successive managers' meetings enabled the development of the project's roadmap.


As for the Middle-East and Persian Gulf:

  • PERSGA is the regional organization for the conservation of the Red Sea, Aqaba Gulf, Suez Gulf and Canal and Aden Gulf's environment. It was created to ensure the implementation of the Jeddah Convention (1982) about the protection of the Red Sea and Aden Gulf. Djibouti, Yemen, Jordan, Somalia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are members of this network. PERSGA's goal is to improve the sustainable use and management of marine resources in order to better the livelihood of riparian populations.  
  • ROPME's actions are limited to the Persian Gulf and its semi-enclosed sea. It regroups Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It coordinates its members ‘actions in the aim of protecting water quality, biodiversity and reducing the rising pollution resulting from the economic growth of the Gulf countries. PERSGA also does a lot of monitoring and awareness raising work.



The NEASPEC is the subregional program for the environmental cooperation in Northeast Asia. China, South and North Korea, Japan and Russia are part of it and it counts nearly 1000 protected sites. The NEASPEC's purpose is to facilitate cooperation between MPAs and to help its members to establish common governance by reinforcing MPAs' efficiency and their role in biodiversity's conservation. To reach its goal, the program launched in 2012 its pioneer project, the NEAMPAN. It is a MPAs' network focused on marine fauna and flora's protection, scientific research, sustainable development and the improvement of management through training.



The Pacific Regional Environmental Program  (SPREP) coordinates the multiple national initiatives of its 26 members including Samoa, Australia, Cook, Fiji, Micronesia, France and French Polynesia, Guam, Marshall, Tonga, Solomon, New-Caledonia, New-Zealand, United Kingdom, USA and so on. It is an organization working to protect the environment and the sustainable use of its resources. Its main action areas are monitoring and environmental governance, pollution control, ecosystems ‘management and climate change.



The UNESCO Marine Heritage Program formed a network of 46 World Heritage marine sites split between 35 countries. This program brings strategic support to those sites and tries to help them become models of good management and practices.

The World Ocean Network (WON) is an association created by the UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic  Commission  whose goal is to raise public awareness, to make people understand the importance of the ocean and to involve them in its protection. This network links more than 600 organisations such as museums, aquariums, scientific centres, charities, NGOs… The WON is also at the origin of the Ocean World Day and organizes it every June, 8th.