2016 01 13 Klein Nat Geo BlogHere’s a sobering thought: most marine species are not well represented within marine protected areas and several hundred species are not covered at all. We’re not talking about Australia here, that’s marine animals around the globe. This is the finding of a new analysis led by CEED associate Dr Carissa Klein.

Klein led a team that assessed the overlap of marine protected areas with the ranges of 17,348 marine species (fishes, mammals, invertebrates). They found a full 97 percent of those species have less than 10 percent of their ranges represented in marine protected areas established with conservation in mind. Countries with the largest number of “gap species,” whose ranges lie entirely outside of protected areas, include developed nations like the U.S., Canada, and Brazil.

Klein, along with coauthors James Watson, Ben Halpern and Jennifer McGowan have just discussed these results of their analysis in a National Geographic blog. They point out that while marine protected areas have grown nearly four-fold in extent in the past decade, they are still failing to provide protection to the overwhelming majority of marine species.

“The good news is that our findings contain a silver lining,” say Klein and colleagues. “The majority of species that are very poorly represented live in waters under national jurisdictions (approximately 200 nautical miles from shore). Thus, nations have the ability and authority to better protect biodiversity.”

Their analysis, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, provides the first global baseline on what marine protected areas are actually protecting. This will help nations to measure their own conservation progress and effectively plan for future protected areas.

You can read the CEED press release on this study here. James Watson is also a CEED Associate and Jennifer McGowan is a CEED Member.

Image: Small reef fish find shelter from predators in coral thickets. ©XL Catlin Seaview Survey.