Claudet, J., Loiseau, C., Sostres, M., & Zupan, M. (2020). Underprotected Marine Protected Areas in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot. One Earth, 2(4), 380-384,


  • 6.01% of the Mediterranean is covered by protection
  • In 95% of this area, regulations are not stronger inside than outside MPAs
  • Only 0.23% of the Mediterranean is fully or highly protected
  • Protection is unevenly distributed across political boundaries and eco-regions

Science for Society

The ocean is central to human well-being. It regulates climate and provides food, energy, minerals, and genetic resources as well as cultural and recreational services. Even though the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals cannot be met without a healthy ocean, an expanding human footprint is placing it at risk. To help protect the ocean, 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed to protect 10% of their waters following the Convention on Biological Diversity. The target year for completion was 2020. This year.

This work investigates how successfully the introduction of marine protected areas (MPAs) has been in the Mediterranean Sea. We show that 1,062 MPAs currently cover 6% of the basin, short of the 10% target. However, of greater concern is that 95% of the area covered by these 1,062 MPAs lack sufficient regulations to reduce human impacts on biodiversity and protect ocean health. Only 0.23% of the basin is effectively protected, and these MPAs are unevenly distributed across political boundaries and eco-regions. More efforts are needed if we are to protect our oceans and safeguard environmental and human well-being.


Ocean health is critical for human well-being but is threatened by multiple stressors. Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to protect 10% of their waters by 2020. The scientific evidence supporting the use of marine protected areas (MPAs) to conserve biodiversity stems primarily from knowledge on fully protected areas, but most of what is being established is partially protected. Here, we assess the protection levels of the 1,062 Mediterranean MPAs. While 6.01% of the Mediterranean is covered by protection, 95% of this area shows no difference between the regulations imposed inside the MPAs compared with those outside. Full and high levels of protection, the most effective for biodiversity conservation, represent only 0.23% of the basin and are unevenly distributed across political boundaries and eco-regions. Our current efforts are insufficient at managing human uses of nature at sea, and protection levels should be increased to deliver tangible benefits for biodiversity conservation.

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