According to the most recent data from the World Database of Protected Areas, marine protected areas now make up 7.6% of the global ocean—over 27 million square kilometers.
Current growth is focused on national waters (Exclusive Economic Zones) where sovereign states have jurisdiction and the ability to act unilaterally. On the high seas (Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction) progress has been slower—only 1.18% of ABNJ are currently protected despite ABNJ making up 61% of the global ocean.
The UN is approaching its goal of protecting 10% of the world’s ocean by 2020, and only 2.4% more needs to be protected for that goal to be attained.
However, the world may fall short.
MPAtlas shows that the 7.6% figure includes areas not yet fully implemented as well as pledges not yet in effect. MPA status itself also does not guarantee success, as some MPA’s allow fishing as other extractive activities and are less effective than strongly protected areas.
Furthermore, there is general understanding that protecting 10% of the Ocean will not be enough to stabilize the Ocean’s decline. 10% is best thought of not as a goal, but as a waypoint to a sustainable future. The scientific consensus is that stabilizing marine ecosystems requires at least 30% of the ocean to be protected. This sentiment is starting to see itself reflected in the decisions of policy-makers, and many nations have called for raising the target to 30% by 2030.