Designated large-scale protected areas (LSMPAs, 100,000 or more square kilometers) constitute over two-thirds of the approximately 6.6% of the ocean and approximately 14.5% of the exclusive economic zones within marine protected areas.

Although LSMPAs have received support among scientists and conservation bodies, there are also concerns. This paper identified 10 common criticisms of LSMPAs along three themes: 1) placement, governance, and management; 2) political expediency; and 3) social-ecological value and cost. And discusses through critical evaluation of scientific evidence the value, achievements, challenges, and potential of LSMPAs in these arenas.

The authors conclude that although some criticisms are valid and need addressing, none pertain exclusively to LSMPAs, and many involve challenges ubiquitous in management. It is stated that no single strategy can protect marine biodiversity and resources and that combining LSMPAs with effective management of all ocean uses, including fisheries, and other MPAs, such as smaller networked sites, will establish a diversified management portfolio that tempers potential losses, insures against inherent ecological and management uncertainty, and ultimately enhances the probability of successfully achieving sustainably managed oceans.

O’Leary et al. (2018) Addressing Criticisms of Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas. Bioscience 68:359-370.