whales swimming with marine debris on them
Marine Protected Areas: Conserving America's oceans and coasts
red footed booby at palmyra atoll
About Marine Protected Areas
nasa blue marble world map
International Cooperation
sunset at the everglades
Marine Protected Areas Viewer

National Marine Protected Areas Center

photo of fish and coral


The MPA Center turns 20 in May 2020! Learn about our work connecting and strengthening MPAs in the United States and internationally, including managing ocean uses and planning for climate change. Check out our new video and webstory.

Marine Protected Areas 2020: Building Effective Conservation Networks

This report and story map summarizes U.S. contributions towards six key aspects of successful marine protected area (MPA) networks. The U.S. has established nearly 1,000 MPAs (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)) to protect important places in our ocean, estuaries, coastal waters, and Great Lakes. Scientists and managers have identified the following characteristics for networks of MPAs to achieve conservation outcomes:

  • Area protected
  • Ecologically representative
  • Ecologically connected
  • Other effective conservation measures (that are not MPAs)
  • Effectively and equitably managed MPAs
  • Integrated into the wider seascape
report cover: two diver examining a wreck with many fish swimming around them

NEW REPORT: Ecological Connectivity for Marine Protected Areas

The role of ecological connectivity in the effective design and management of marine protected area (MPA) networks is gaining attention in the field of marine conservation. This document provides an introduction to ecological connectivity in MPAs while highlighting information needed to fully capitalize on this important ecological process for more effective and resilient MPAs.

report cover: turtle being cleaned by fish
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Check on our progress in meeting global MPA targets. View, query and explore the MPA Inventory, a database that catalogs information on over 979 marine protected areas in U.S. waters.

mapping on screen


Learn about how MPA programs are meeting the challenges of managing in a changing climate, conserving cultural heritage, and addressing ocean uses.