How do you know if a country or a region is doing a good job at protecting the waters it is responsible for? There are a few indicators. One of the most interesting is the Marine Protected Area. Each country with access to the sea or ocean is granted an Exclusive Economic Zone, where it exerts its sovereign rights and where it is entitled to use resources as it sees fit. The Marine Protected Area Score, from 0 – 100, measures the size of protected areas of seas, oceans and estuaries versus the size against the total size of a zone’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

These protected areas can take many forms – from wildlife refuge to research to semi-protected spaces. That is why a more precise indicator is needed to understand a country or an area’s performance. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an MPA is defined as:

“A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”

These areas usually provide shelter for wildlife to reproduce and respect the natural cycle of life by implementing seasonal fishing bans or limiting human activities. As of 2019, only 3.6% of the world’s oceans are protected in implemented and actively managed marine protected areas. In order to get on par with international goals, we would need to get that number to 10%. Still a way away, but nothing is impossible. With appropriate protection, overfishing, unchecked spills and pollution and dead zones could be prevented much more easily. We need to know, in order to protect, in order to save.

Where does your continent stand? If you want to know more about ocean conservation, visit our Ocean Theme pageSpecial thanks to Megan Barclay and Alex Hayes for their work on visualising this indicator.