Why Big? Why Now?

3qd2x8np-1393566527For 25 years, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, served as the world’s single truly large-scale marine conservation site, dwarfing the next largest sites in orders of magnitude that made comparisons difficult at best. Between 2000 and 2010, four more large-scale MPAs were established: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and World Heritage Site, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, and the British Indian Ocean Territory Marine Protected Area.

The past two decades have seen not only an increase in the call for marine protection, but also for such protections to happen at increasingly larger levels of scale and area, including on the high seas. Calls and challenges for large-scale marine protection abound, and are reflected within existing scientific studies and consensus statements, international agreements and declarations, as well as conservation literature, including best professional practices handbooks. The most recent and relevant of such calls arose out of the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Nagoya, Japan, during October 2010. Out of this meeting, the Parties agreed to the need to protect at least 10% of all of the world’s marine and coastal eco-regions by 2020, noting the critical role that large-scale MPAs will play in order to achieve this target.

During early 2010 the Government of Chile proposed setting aside a large area within its extensive Eastern Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone as a large-scale MPA, and in October of that year a portion of this proposed area was established as the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park (formerly referred to as the Sala y Gómez Marine Park).

From 2010 to 2014 another four large-scale sites have been established. In 2012 the Cook Islands came online with Marae Moana and Australia formalized a massive network of 59 sites, including five individual large-scale sites––the largest of which, the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, is the largest singular site gloablly. And in 2014, New Caledonia established le Parc naturel de la mer de Corail (Natural Park of the Coral Sea), and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, originally established in 2009, was expanded to become a large-scale serial site.

Member sites are currently all of the 14 established large-scale MPAs world wide. Collectively, these sites represent seven countries and are helping to protect 7.2 million square kilometers of our global ocean (November 2014).

Member sites are currently all of the 14 established large-scale MPAs world wide. Collectively, these sites represent seven countries and are helping to protect 7.2 million square kilometers of our global ocean (November 2014).

With additional sites being proposed through national, regional, and international initiatives the time for large-scale marine management has arrived. We must begin to learn from our collective experiences and share this learning widely so new sites, from their inception, can benefit from the increased professionalization of the field and best practices that are being developed. Thus, the continued growth of Big Ocean: A Network of the World’s Large Scale Marine Protected Areas.