Project Overview

Global coverage of marine protected areas has increased significantly in recent years due to the proliferation of large marine protected areas (large MPAs).

Large MPAs are different from smaller MPAs in coastal areas. Their meaning and value for diverse groups are less visible and less understood. Their size and remoteness pose unprecedented governance challenges and opportunities. Their social, political, and economic impacts are understudied and potentially far-reaching, with implications for the populations of entire nations.

In 2014, a team of social scientists at Colorado State University, Duke University, and University of Guelph initiated an ambitious research and outreach project to generate and share new knowledge about the human dimensions of large MPAs. The project approaches large MPAs as a global movement, with an empirical focus on large MPAs proposed in Bermuda and Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) and designated in Kiribati, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands & Guam. In some of our case studies, large MPAs have been designated for a number of years; in others, designation seems unlikely in the near future if at all. As our selection of cases illustrates, we believe there is much to learn about the human dimensions of large MPAs not only when they are implemented, but also during efforts to establish them.

Our goal is to advance understanding of the emergence, form, and function of large MPAs as a governance tool and, ultimately, to inform decision-making and debates regarding large MPAs within case study sites and globally. This website is one way of sharing information about our project.

We are also pleased to be working with other scholars and practitioners who are engaged in a growing ‘Community of Practice’ focused on the human dimensions of large MPAs, including those who co-organized and participated in a “Think Tank” in February 2016. Our project is part of a broader effort to understand the human dimensions of large MPAs.

How do we define large MPA?

This study defines a large MPA as any ocean area larger than 100,000 km² that has been designated for the purpose of conservation. Our definition is broadly inclusive of diverse types of large MPAs – including those that are 100% no-take, and those that allow for use. We also acknowledge that depending on the context, a large MPA may be referred to as a marine reserve, sanctuary, monument, park, conservation area, or something else.

Information on this website represents our views and work as independent researchers, and not the official position of government agencies or other organizations working on large MPAs.