International Engagement

The ocean is an interconnected and dynamic system that spans geographic boundaries, so effective marine conservation requires a collective global effort. Marine protected areas are some of the most important places in our ocean, and their health is affected by a range of external factors that transcend international boundaries, including ocean and atmospheric circulation, land- and ocean-based activities and their impacts (e.g., fisheries, shipping, coastal development, tourism), and climate change. In order to effectively protect the special marine places of the United States, we must work with our neighbor nations, international partners, and marine conservation experts and managers worldwide.  The MPA Center serves as the hub for international engagement for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Our goals for international engagement are:

  • Improving the effectiveness of marine resource protection
  • Sharing experiences, developing our staff and leveraging resources
  • Providing conservation leadership

Key International Partners

Many international programs aim to support the effective establishment and management of protected areas, including MPAs.  Some key resources are listed below.

International MPA Capacity Building Program

ONMS' International MPA Capacity Building Team (IMPACT) was created to help establish connections among protected area practitioners around the world, and to share best practices, experiences, and expertise. The program works in six regions and many countries around the world. Tailored to share best practices in the management of MPAs and MPA networks and the specific needs of each country or region over a multi-year period, this program directly impacts and improves daily resource management efforts, addressing a wide range of management issues from management plan development to sustainable tourism to marine spatial planning.

Regional Collaborations

ONMS and the MPA Center are engaged in the following egional collaborations that support MPA networks:

Sister MPAs

These site-based partnerships allow individual MPAs or a group of MPAs to partner with their peers in other countries in order to work collaboratively on common issues and concerns and share lessons learned. Sister sites are typically linked by a variety of natural and cultural aspects: migratory species, regional ecological connectivity, invasive species, management tools, natural and cultural heritage, and community engagement. 

Current sister site agreements include:

Sister site arrangements under development include:

  • Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks national marine sanctuaries with MPAs in Mexico and Cuba
  • West Coast national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with coastal and Pacific Island MPAs in Chile (in partnership with the National Park Service); and
  • Stellwagen Banks National Marine Sanctuary with the Netherlands Antilles' Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

For more information on international engagement, contact: mpainfo@noaa.gov