Current and Founding Member Sites listed in order of establishment
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
- Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
and World Heritage Site
- Phoenix Islands Protected Area
and World Heritage Site
- Marianas Trench Marine National Monument
- Chagos Marine Protected Area
- Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park
- Cook Islands Marine Park
Along the Queensland coast of northeastern Australia
S18 17 10 E147 41 60
344,400 km2 or 132,973 mi2
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) comprises the world's most extensive coral reef ecosystem. It extends across a contiguous latitudinal range of 14o (10oS to 24oS) and includes extensive cross-shelf diversity, stretching from the low water mark along the mainland coast up to 250 kilometers offshore. This wide depth range includes vast shallow inshore areas, mid shelf and outer reefs, and beyond the continental shelf to deep oceanic waters over 2,000 meters deep.
In 1981, the Great Barrier Reef gained international recognition through its inscription on the World Heritage List. The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) is just slightly larger than the Marine Park at 348,000 km2 (134,363 mi2) and includes many islands, as well as intertidal and port areas that are protected by State (Queensland) legislation but are not part of the Federal Marine Park. Within the GBRWHA there are some 2,900 individual reefs of varying sizes and shapes, and some 900 islands, ranging from small sandy cays to large rugged high continental islands. There are also over 1,500 species of fish, about 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusc, some 240 species of birds, plus a great diversity of sponges, anemones, marine worms, and crustaceans––including many endemic species and a significant number of species that are globally threatened. This latitudinal and cross-shelf diversity, combined with diversity through the depths of the water column, encompasses a globally unique array of ecological communities, habitats and species making the GBRWHA one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on earth.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the Traditional Owners of the GBR region, having been present for over 60 000 years. Today 70 Traditional Owner clan groups along the GBR coast continue to practice their traditional customs and spiritual lore in their use of sea country.
Originally established as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000 by U.S. President Bill Clinton; Papahānaumokuākea was later established in 2006 by U.S. President George W. Bush.
Northwestern three quarters of the Hawaiian Archipelago
N25 20 56.652 W170 8 44.952
362,074 km2, or 139,797 mi2
Papahānaumokuākea is a vast and isolated linear cluster of small, low lying islands and atolls, with their surrounding ocean, roughly 250 km to the northwest of the main Hawaiian Archipelago and extending over some 1931 km, making it one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. Much of the Monument is made up of pelagic and deepwater habitats, with notable features such as seamounts and submerged banks, extensive coral reefs and lagoons. Largely as a result of its isolation, marine ecosystems and ecological processes are virtually intact, leading to exceptional biomass accumulated in large apex predators. This isolation has also resulted in an extremely high degree of endemism; for example one quarter of the presently known marine species in the area are endemic. Over one fifth of the fish species are unique to the archipelago, while coral species endemism is over 40%. The area is host to numerous endangered or threatened species, both terrestrial and marine, some of which depend solely on Papahānaumokuākea for their survival. The area has deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture, as an ancestral environment, as an embodiment of the Hawaiian concept of kinship between people and the natural world, and as the place where it is believed that life originates and to where the spirits return after death. The region has also been a training ground for both ancient and modern wayfinders.
Kiribati first declared the creation of PIPA at the 2006 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil. On January 30, 2008, Kiribati adopted formal regulations for PIPA that more than doubled the original size to make it, at that time, the largest marine protected area on Earth.
Central Pacific Ocean, 5 degrees south of the equator
S3 38 59 W172 51 27
408,250 km2, or 157,626 mi2
The Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA) is a 408,250km2 expanse of marine and terrestrial habitats in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The area encompasses eight of the islands in the Phoenix Island Group, one of three island groups in Kiribati, and is the second largest Marine Protected Area in the world. PIPA conserves one of the world's largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, together with 14 known underwater seamounts and other deep-sea habitats. The area consists of a wide range of marine environments and displays high levels of marine abundance, increasingly rare in the tropics, and especially in the case of apex predators, sea turtles, sea birds, corals, giant clams, and coconut crabs, many of which have been depleted elsewhere. PIPA contains approximately 800 known species of fauna, including over 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 20 marine mammals and 44 bird species, including globally important seabird nesting grounds. The area also protects rare traditional plants that have cultural and medicinal values in Kiribati, but are now threatened on more populated islands. PIPA has exceptional value as a natural laboratory for the study and understanding of significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of marine ecosystems of the Pacific.
On January 6, 2009, President George W. Bush established the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906.
Western Pacific Ocean, approximately 3,500 miles west-southwest of Hawai'i
250,487 km2, 96,714 mi2
The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument incorporates approximately 96,714 square miles within the Mariana Archipelago. It includes three units: the Island Unit, the Volcanic Unit, and the Trench Unit. The Islands Unit includes the waters and submerged lands of the three northernmost Mariana Islands. Here, unique reef habitats and waters are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific and include the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet discovered. The Volcanic Unit consists of the submerged lands within 1 nautical mile of 21 designated mud volcanoes and thermal vents along the Mariana Arc and also has been designated the Mariana Arc of Fire National Wildlife Refuge. In the Volcanic Unit, species survive in the midst of hydrothermal vents that produce highly acidic and boiling water. The Trench Unit is almost 1,100 miles long (five times longer than the Grand Canyon), 44 miles wide, and includes only the submerged lands extending from the north to south end of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Territory of Guam. It has also been designated as the Mariana Trench National Wildlife Refuge. The Mariana Trench is the deepest place on Earth, deeper than the height of Mount Everest above sea level, and includes some 50,532,102 acres of virtually unknown characteristics. This vast and unique area still has many secrets to yield and many potentially valuable lessons that can benefit the rest of the world.
Announcement by the United Kingdom Government on 1 April 2010
Center of the Indian Ocean
545,001 km2 or 210,425 mi2
(twice the size of the UK)
Currently the largest marine protected area in the world, Chagos includes the world's largest coral atoll, the Great Chagos Bank, and 55 tiny islands in quarter of a million square miles of the world's cleanest seas. The Chagos waters also include an exceptional diversity of deepwater habitats formed by the separation of tectonic plates, fracture zones, sea-floor spreading, sea-mounts and ridges, deep trenches, and vast deep-sea plains. The archipelago is host to a rich wildlife biodiversity, containing at least 220 coral species and over 1000 species of fish. It is also a refuge and breeding ground for large and important populations of sharks, dolphins, marine turtles, rare crabs, birds and other vulnerable marine and island species. As a fully protected area the Chagos Islands provide a global scientific reference site for research in crucial areas such as ocean acidification, coral reef resilience, sea level rise, fish stock decline, and climate change.
Established: October 6, 2010
Off the coast of Chile, approximately 250 nautical miles from Easter Island
Approximately 150,000 km2 or 57,900 mi2
In October of 2010, the Chilean government announced the creation of a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers (about 58,000 square miles) surrounding the small island of Sala y Gómez in the Pacific Ocean. The park, later renamed Moto Motiro Hiva Marine Park, expands Chile's total marine protected area more than 100 times, from 0.03 percent to 4.41 percent of the country's territorial waters. The creation of this marine reserve stemmed from a March 2010 preliminary scientific expedition to the island of Sala y Gómez, which found abundant populations of vulnerable species such as sharks and lobsters, and revealed unexpectedly high biodiversity in deeper waters. A second expedition which took place in February 2011 revealed that 73 percent of individual fish species in Motu Motiro Hiva are endemic, and that 44 percent of the seabed contains live corals, with an excellent conservation status, that serve as habitat for several species of fish and invertebrates. Additionally, large predators like sharks, horse mackerel and yellowtail amberjacks account for 43 percent of reef fish in Motu Motiro Hiva. Researchers from National Geographic, the Waitt Foundation, and Oceana, collaborators on the expeditions, have since advocated for expanding the area of Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park due to the interconnectivity between ecosystems in this area of the Pacific Ocean.
Established: August 2012
Location: Situated between 9 degrees and 22 degrees south latitude
Size: 1.065 million km2 or 411,000 mi2
In August 2012, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna announced the establishment of a 1,065,000 square kilometer multiple use marine park that will “provide the necessary framework to promote sustainable development by balancing economic growth interests … with conserving core biodiversity and natural assets, in the ocean, reefs and islands.” The Cook Islands commitment is the largest in history by a single country for integrated ocean conservation and management. The area includes remote atolls and high volcanic islands surrounded by fringing reefs and unspoiled fauna associated with underwater mountains. It also hosts rich Pacific marine biodiversity, including rare seabirds, blue whales, manta rays and several shark species, a number of which are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The Cook Islands Marine Park is currently the largest commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape, an innovative initiative led by the Pacific Island nations, including New Zealand, to foster integrated marine conservation and sustainable oceans management across approximately 40 million sq km of ocean – over seven percent of the Earth’s surface. Similar to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, the Cook Islands Marine Park will contain a variety of zones with different levels of protection, including area where all fishing will be banned, and buffer areas where tourism and carefully monitored fishing will be allowed.