While MPAs are a central tool for ocean conservation, not all MPAs are the same. There are wide-ranging types of MPAs with various goals, regulations, and consequently, outcomes. This variety causes confusion. For example, some MPAs allow fishing, aquaculture and anchoring, while others do not. Some MPAs are included in official tallies despite not being active in the ocean. In the absence of guidance on how to categorize MPAs or to determine their likely outcomes, there is considerable inconsistency. One result is a mismatch between what an MPA is expected to accomplish and the actual outcomes. A second result is the lack of a reliable way to monitor how much ocean is actually protected, leading to inaccurate numbers and disjointed understanding about how much protection actually exists worldwide.

Use of this MPA Guide can improve effective design, implementation, assessment, and tracking of existing and future MPAs

Authored by 42 marine and social scientists from 38 institutions across six continents, The MPA Guide: A Framework to Achieve Global Goals for the Ocean enables the global community to advance understanding of ocean protection and achieve global goals to reverse biodiversity loss through MPAs. The MPA Guide categorises each area according to four levels of protection – fully, highly, lightly or minimally protected – tracks whether protection has been activated in the water, and matches both of those with the benefits the MPA can expect to deliver.

There are four core components to The MPA Guide:
● Stages of Establishment specifies an MPA’s status – whether it only exists on paper or is in operation.
● Levels of Protection clarifies the degree to which biodiversity is protected from extractive or destructive activities.
● Enabling Conditions provides the principles and processes needed to plan, design, and govern a successful MPA.
● Outcomes describe the conservation and social results that can be expected from an MPA at a particular stage and level, provided the enabling conditions are in place.

On the MPA Guide website, you can work through the interactive decision tree to determine the Level of Protection of your MPA or zone within a multizone MPA.

Many resources such as an introduction to the MPA Guide, expanded guidance for each of the components and explanation videos are also available on the website.