Story | 03 Dec, 2019

Revised IUCN guidelines demystify and clarify protected area categories for marine areas

The IUCN guidelines that define a protected area are the foundation for the standards by which protected areas truly become protected. Our new publication explains this subject as it applies to marine areas, seemingly misunderstood in the past.

content hero image

IUCN protected area management categories and marine protected areas



IUCN-WCPA’s Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines are the world’s authoritative resource for protected area managers.


The new edition

Work on this new edition of Guidelines for applying the IUCN protected area management categories to marine protected areas started at a meeting on marine protected areas (MPAs) and categories, in Washington, January 2018, organised by the WCPA Marine Theme.

In part, this new edition is a response to evidence of the widespread incorrect application of the categories to marine protected areas.

Marine management and sustainable fisheries management are critical elements of good oceans management, but are not the same as protected areas management, where the primary focus is conservation of nature.

IUCN resolutions relevant to this guidance are proposed for discussion at the 2020 World Conservation Congress. Further updates of this guidance will be prepared to reflect any relevant approved motions and will be available at IUCN-WCPA Marine.

The Protected Area Guidelines series is the condensed experience of IUCN's experts

Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines involve collaboration among specialist practitioners dedicated to supporting better implementation in the field, they distil learning and advice drawn from across IUCN.

Applied in the field, they are building institutional and individual capacity to manage protected area systems effectively, equitably and sustainably, and to cope with the myriad challenges faced in practice.

They also assist national governments, protected area agencies, nongovernmental organisations, communities and private sector partners to meet their commitments and goals, and especially the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas.

A full set of guidelines is available at:
Complementary resources are available at:
Contribute to developing capacity for a Protected Planet at: