Ocean Blog

Papahānaumokuākea Wins Global Award for Marine Protected Areas

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The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most critically endangered marine mammals in the United States. Photo: James Watt

Marine Conservation Institute, a leader in securing protection for the oceans’ most important places, has selected Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as one of the winners of the first-ever Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) awards. This initiative is designed to incentivize marine conservation through recognizing the most effective marine protected areas (MPAs) according to science-based standards.

“My experience engaging with Hawai‘i stakeholders on the Papahānaumokuākea expansion left me with hope for the future,” said Senator Brian Schatz (Hawai‘i).  “It was hard work to refine the details but the overwhelming support for the expansion made it possible to find consensus and move forward to protect the Pacific Ocean.  I am confident that more and more communities will be inspired to follow and I believe that today’s awards will help keep the momentum going.”

Until now MPAs have had no rating system to highlight the best among them. The objective of this new award system is to increase the amount and quality of MPA coverage around the world to meet the United Nations goal of 10% of the ocean protected by 2020 and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) goal of 30% of the ocean protected by 2030.

Currently only 3% of the world’s oceans have been designated as MPAs and only 1.6% of the ocean is strongly protected in no-take marine reserves, the most effective form of conserving and recovering marine life.

“Marine Conservation Institute has worked closely with our GLORES Science Council composed of well-known marine scientists to create a system similar to Michelin Stars for marine protected areas,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute.


“Our principle objective has been to build market and reputation incentives for governments around the world to create marine reserves with high levels of protection in the most critical places in the world’s oceans. We believe GLORES awards will speed the creation of strong marine reserves and strengthen the protections in existing ones.

GLORES awarded marine reserves will function just like the parks we have on land that protect wildlife inside whole ecosystems and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.”

Three of the nominees this year were judged by the GLORES Science Council to be worthy of Platinum –the highest- status. The 2017 award winners are:

Marine Reserve and Country Size (km2) Special Characteristic(s) Link to the site
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument – United States 1,508,870 “Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area under the U.S. flag, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses 582,578 square miles of the Pacific Ocean, an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.” http://www.mpatlas.org/mpa/sites/5426/









Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary – Colombia 8,575 “A World Heritage Site, is an isolated oceanic habitat of extremely rich marine life in very good condition which is important to the maintenance and dispersal of the marine life of the Eastern Tropical Pacific. It has some of the best diving in the world” http://www.mpatlas.org/mpa/sites/3803/




Tubbataha Reefs Nature Park – The Philippines 970.0 ”Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whale species, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles” http://www.mpatlas.org/mpa/sites/14761/






MPAs are evaluated according to clear, science-based criteria, including:

  1. Is the MPA in an important area for marine life of various types or rare creatures? Does it improve connectivity with other refuges or cover an ecosystem of ocean that has no protection yet?
  2. Is the MPA well managed with adequate staff, resources and enforcement? Does it have strong regulations that exclude some or all harmful activities like overfishing, bottom trawling, or mining, drilling and dredging?
  3. Is the MPA large enough, old enough, designed well enough and managed with the local community to work effectively?

GLORES awards are not designed to displace other organizations’ MPA systems or imply that Marine Conservation Institute had a role to play in their creation. The vision of GLORES is to encourage international collaboration and to amplify the stature of valuable ocean areas across initiatives such as Mission Blue Hope Spots, Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Natura 2000, World Heritage and others.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, a world famous marine explorer, former chief scientist of NOAA, and founder of Mission Blue said, “The Global Ocean Refuge System is critical to saving the biodiversity of our oceans. It makes so much sense, we all should have thought of it a long time ago.”

To learn more about Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, go to https://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/

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