A marine protected area (MPA) is an area of sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biodiversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
MPAs include marine parks, nature reserves and locally managed marine areas that protect reefs, seagrass beds, shipwrecks, archaeological sites, tidal lagoons, mudflats, saltmarshes, mangroves, rock platforms, underwater areas on the coast and the seabed in deep water, as well as open water (the water column).
In 1988, The World Conservation Union (IUCN) General Assembly called upon national governments, international agencies and the non-governmental community to:
Provide for the protection, restoration, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the marine heritage of the world through the creation of a global, representative system of marine protected areas and through management in accordance with the principles of the World Conservation Strategy of human activities that use or affect the marine environment.
In many parts of the world there is a growing focus and appreciation of the need for more MPAs and for better management generally of coastal and marine environments.