Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Task within the MPA Challenge

  1. Data gathering to create an overview of the existing MPAs in the Arctic.
    In other words compile a (geographical) database of the Marine Protected Areas within the Arctic. (Phase I)
  2. IUCN classification (included in the results of task 1). (Phase I)
  3. Analysis of Coherence. (Phase II)
  4. Climate Change. (Phase II)

In this challenge the network of Arctic MPAs is analysed. Data on MPAs were obtained from various sources, the most comprehensive being the World Database on Marine Protected Areas. In total, 492 marine protected areas were included.

EU Natura 2000 areas are not present in this part of the world. From the OSPAR database with 333 records, only 8 MPAs were inside the Arctic region studies and these were included. Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) were not present in the area either. 11 Norwegian MPAs and 5 proposed Norwegian MPAs were included. For the USA, 38 additional MPAs published by NOAA were included, including a lot of fishery closures. A check on the Canadian data sources from DFO did not reveal any new MPAs compared to the Word database. The same was true for the MPAs of Greenland and Russia. The network of EBSAs was included as well (see Figure 1).

The resulting dataset of MPAs is available in the geoviewer. The geoviewer will also allow for comparisons of the MPA network with habitat maps and fishery intensities.

MPA classified IUCN categories
Figure 1. MPAs in the Arctic classified according to the IUCN categories (final results,  July 2016). The IUCN categories are: Ia - Strict Nature Reserve, Ib -Wilderness area, II - National Park, III - Natural Monument or feature, IV - Habitat/species management area, V - Protected landscape/seascape, VI -Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources (for details, see the IUCN classification). Not Applicable: the IUCN Management Categories are not applicable to a specific designation type. This currently applies to World Heritage Sites and UNESCO MAB Reserves. Not Applicable also applies to a site that does not fit the standard definition of a protected area (PA_DEF field = 0). Not Reported: For protected areas where an IUCN category is unknown and/or the data provider has not provided any related information.

Problems and gaps

  • Data availability: the IUCN offers to deliver data on species distribution on their website. We have asked for 14 sets of distribution data to help answering Task 3, but multiple requests were not responded to.
  • Language problems: information on Russian MPAs was available at multiple websites, so that we had different texts that together gave an impression of the status of the MPAs. Most Scandinavian languages could be understood. For a lot of areas information in English was available as well.

Lessons learned

  • The World Database on Protected Areas contained 90% of the MPAs, but is not complete.
  • We think the current MPA database made in this project is rather complete.
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS): maps need to be projected to a polar projection, because otherwise select-by-location operations give unexpected results. For example, when searching for an area 50 km away from a certain point, a non-polar projection gives wrong results.

For more details, see IUCN categories