MPAs and networks in the Atlantic


One of the project’s primary tasks is to obtain an overview of the situation and status of MPAs in the Atlantic: their number, how they are organised, their challenges, examples of good practice, and how the project might address issues through supported coordination and the sharing of innovative good practice.

According to our work so far, we have identified that there are over 4 000 MPAs on the Atlantic rim, along the coast or offshore. If we also count protected areas along or very near the coast, that number rises to over 10 000.  There are also several regional networks.

A network of marine protected areas is defined by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Marine group as follows:

‘A collection of individual MPAs or reserves operating co-operatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales and with a range of protection levels that are designed to meet objectives that a single reserve cannot achieve.’

This project aims to develop a partnership between networks and other MPAs in the Atlantic area.

Existing regional networks in the Atlantic include:

permanet networks

Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management (CaMPAM)
Network and Forum

The CaMPAM Network and Forum works to strengthen MPA capacity in the wider Caribbean. It provides trainings, communication and outreach tools, and maintains a database of MPAs in 38 countries and territories in the Wider Caribbean or Tropical Northwestern Atlantic and Guianan Marine Biogeographic Provinces.

North American Marine Protected Areas Network (NAMPAN)

NAMPAN was set up to enhance and strengthen biodiversity conservation in critical marine habitats on both the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards of Canada, the US and Mexico. Resource agencies, MPA managers and other relevant experts collaborate to implement complementary conservation efforts, developing cross-cutting conservation initiatives and address common challenges to marine biodiversity. To date, most of its efforts have focused on the Pacific side.


The OSPAR Commission brings together 15 countries and the EU to protect and preserve marine resources in the North-East Atlantic. Named after the 1972 Oslo and 1974 Paris Conventions which were brought together in the 1992 OSPAR Convention, it began to create a network of national marine protected areas in 2003. It collects data on registered MPAs from its members and undertakes regular assessments of the network’s status.

Réseau Régional d’Aires Marines Protégées
en Afrique de l’Ouest (RAMPAO)

RAMPAO is a regional network of marine protected areas in West Africa. Its members include MPAs in Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The network’s mission is to maintain “a coherent set of critical habitats necessary for the dynamic functioning of the ecological processes essential to the regeneration of the natural resources and the conservation of biodiversity for the benefit of societies”.

Central African Protected Areas Network/Réseau
des Aires Protégées d’Afrique Centrale (RAPAC)

RAPAC represents eight countries in Central Africa. It was created in 2000, to improve knowledge about protected areas (on both land and sea), coordinate environmental programmes, and represent the interests of protected areas in the region. In 2015, it developed a regional strategy for MPAs, accompanied by a needs analysis and a regional perspectives exercise.

other nearby networks

HELCOM Network of Baltic Sea protected Areas

HELCOM is the governing body of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (known as the Helsinki Convention). It has 10 contracting parties: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the European Union. The Convention is primarily oriented to preventing pollution but since 1994 has addressed MPAs. Today there are 174 HELCOM MPAs in the Baltic Sea.

Network of Marine Protected Area Managers
in the Mediterranean (MedPAN)

MEDPAN brings together over 100 institutions and NGOs that are responsible for managing or involved in developing MPAs in the Mediterranean. Members represent over 90 MPAs in 18 countries, and cooperate closely to exchange knowledge and information with the goal of reducing the current rate of marine biodiversity loss in the Mediterranean.

Marine Protected Areas in the Atlantic Arc (MAIA)

The Maia project from 2010-12 brought together all MPAs officially recognised as such by the five countries bordering the northeast Atlantic from the Shetlands to the Azores (Ireland, the UK, France, Spain and Portugal), whether coastal or offshore, and totally or partially marine.

Protected Area Network Across the Channel
Ecosystem (PANACHE)

The PANACHE project (2012-2015) aimed to improve protection of the Channel marine environment by establishing a network among existing marine protected areas.

other networks

UN Regional Seas Programme

Led by UNEP, the UN Regional Seas (RS) Programme brings together neighbouring countries to protect their shared marine environment. Regional Seas programmes function through an Action Plan underpinned by a legal framework in the form of a regional Convention and associated Protocols on specific problems. More than 143 countries participate in 13 RS programmes including three in the Atlantic: the Wider Caribbean, Western Africa and the Mediterranean. The OSPAR and HELCOM Conventions are independent partners to the RS Programme.

World Heritage Marine Sites

The UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme was launched in 2005 to establish effective conservation of existing and potential marine areas of Outstanding Universal Value to make sure they will be maintained and thrive for generations to come. Sites are recognised for their exceptional natural phenomena, their geological processes, ecological functioning and/or outstanding biodiversity found nowhere else on the planet. To date, 46 sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List in recognition of their exceptional marine values.

International Marine Protected Areas
Network Agenda 2020 (IMPANA)

An initiative launched in 2015 to build a global network of marine protected areas for 2020 and beyond. The ‘Agenda’ comprises a strategy and roadmap designed to drive the momentum needed to achieve Aichi Target 11 of the CBD: to protect 10 % of marine areas by 2020.

The Emerald Network

The Emerald Network is an ecological network made up of Areas of Special Conservation Interest. It was launched by the Council of Europe as part of its work under the Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), which covers 51 countries including all EU states, some non-Community states (those with coasts are Norway, Iceland, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Russia), and some African states (Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal and Burkina Faso,). The Emerald Network is an extension of the ecological network process to non-EU States and allows for the establishment of ‘areas of special conservation interest’ (ASCIs).

Mesoamerican Reef Fund

The Fund is currently carrying out a project ‘Conservation of Marine Resources in Central America’ to establish and strengthen a network of coastal and marine protected areas in the Mesoamerican Reef Region (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras) to promote adaptation to climate change, conservation of natural resources and ecological processes, permanence of connectivity functions and ecosystem services, and sustainable use of resources. MARFund is part of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, an international, multi-institutional effort that tracks the health of the Meso-American Reef