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TABLE 8-1 A Brief History of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Year or Period

Activity or Event

Significance for MPAs

Historical and prehistory

The closing of fishing or crabbing areas by island communities for conservation for example, because the chief felt the area had been overfished or in order to preserve the area as a breeding ground for fish to supply the surrounding reefs (Johannes, 197

Established the concept of protecting areas critical to sustainable harvesting of marine organisms

1950s and 1960s

Decline in catch or effort ratios in various fisheries around the world

At the global level, the need to devise methods to manage and protect marine environments and resources became strongly apparent


Four conventions, known as the Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea were adopted. These were the Convention on the Continental Shelf the Convention on the High Seas, the Convention on Fishing, and the Convention on Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas

Established an international framework for protection of living marine resources


The First World Conference on National Parks considered the need for protection of coastal and marine areas

Development of the concept of protecting specific areas and habitats


The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (known as the Ramsar Convention) was developed

Provided a specific basis for nations to establish MPAs to protect wetlands


Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (known as the World Heritage Convention) was developed

Provided a regime for protecting marine (and terrestrial) areas of global importance


The Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was given the task of ensuring that emerging environmental problems of wide international significance received appropriate and adequate consideration by governments. UNEP established the Regional Seas Programme. The first action plan under that program was adopted for the Mediterranean in 1975. The Caribbean Environment Programme action plan was adopted in 1981, and the Cartegena Convention was adopted in 1983, including the Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife of the Wider Caribbean Region

Provided a framework and information base for considering marine environmental issues regionally. MPAs were one means of addressing some such issues

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