MPAs protect key ecosystems such as coral reefs, which not only act as safe breeding grounds for fish, but also generate tourism, bringing considerable income. MPAs, which often encompass ‘barrier' ecosystems such as coral reefs or mangroves, can also reduce the impact of damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes. Waves are slowed by reefs while mangroves act as effective windbreaks that reduce soil erosion.

Studies have shown that the establishment of MPAs has a strong positive effect on fisheries: ‘no take’ Marine Protected Areas can not only double the amount of fish but also their size in a short period of time. MPAs including in the High Seas, are key to replenishing biodiversity and nourishing the growing human population. They also serve as nurseries for key threatened species including whales and turtles whilst protecting a variety of marine ecosystems and the rich biodiversity they sustain.

Despite the important role of these areas for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, only 1% of the ocean is protected. An effective MPA system is needed to ensure that the oceans recuperate, continue to store carbon dioxide, fish stocks recover and coastlines are protected from harsh climatic conditions.

Take a look at our selection of Marine Protected Areas from around the world, find out why they are protected, what threats they face and view a selection of striking images from each site.