What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network?
International commitments to MPA networks recognize that they fulfill ecological and social aims that a single MPA alone cannot. An MPA network is defined by the World Conservation Union as: ‘A collection of individual marine protected areas operating cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels, in order to fulfill ecological aims more effectively and comprehensively than individual sites could alone. The network will also display social and economic benefits, though the latter may only become fully developed over long time frames as ecosystems recover.’
An MPA network is basically a networked system of individual MPAs. Well designed, networks allow exponential benefits beyond a single site system – they can support the interconnectivity of ecosystems, provide stepping stone sanctuaries for migratory species and provide larval landing sites to promote robust larger-scale conservation of an area.
MPA networks can effectively conserve larger scale ecological systems than a single site could cover, and can be cost effective for a region – enabling regions to share resources between sites and avoiding duplication of effort. Networks reduce the degradation of coastal and marine habitats, slow the loss of endangered marine species, and restore depleted fish stocks.
Ref: WCPA/IUCN. 2007. Establishing networks of marine protected areas: A guide for developing national and regional capacity for building MPA networks. Non-technical summary report.