The increase in the number MPAs in recent years is encouraging, but most of this increase has come from a few very large MPAs. Those very large MPAs provide important value, but they can be misleading in thinking that biodiversity is being well protected because of them. Species all around the planet need protection, not just those in some locations.
The first comprehensive assessment of protected areas coverage on marine life says that more than 17,000 marine species worldwide remain largely unprotected
The authors of the study looked at the ranges of some 17,348 species of marine life, including whales, sharks rays and fish, and found that 97.4 percent have less than 10 percent of their range represented in marine protected areas. Nations with the largest number of "gap species" or species whose range lie entirely outside of protected areas include the U.S., Canada, and Brazil.
Despite these dismal and somewhat shameful results, the authors say the study underscores opportunities to achieve goals set by the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 10 percent of marine biodiversity by 2020. For example, the majority of species that were considered very poorly represented (less than two percent of their range found in marine protected areas) are found in exclusive economic zones. This suggests an important role for particular nations (see above) to better protect biodiversity.
As most marine biodiversity remains extremely poorly represented, the task of implementing an effective network of MPAs is urgent. Achieving this goal is imperative for not just for nature but for humanity, as millions of people depend on marine biodiversity for important and valuable services.