Ocean In Google Earth...


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It is now possible to navigate via Ocean in Google Earth to over 4000 marine protected areas (MPAs) around the globe and discover if there is an MPA near you. Scientific information is available for many types of MPAs, including areas that are fully protected, called marine reserves. PISCO’s Science of Marine Reserves Team has developed interactive graphics in the new Google Earth MPA Layer that illustrate the results of research inside marine reserves. Scientific evidence shows that marine reserves usually boost the abundance, diversity, and size of marine animals and plants living within their borders.

Tour Marine Reserves Around the Globe

The following is a short tour of a few of the marine reserves around the globe that have been studied by scientists. The results of this research show that the abundance, diversity, biomass, and size of fishes, invertebrates, and seaweeds usually increase inside marine reserves. Species that are fished show the biggest changes, sometimes increasing 10 or 20 times in marine reserves. These outcomes are consistent across different habitats in tropical and temperate waters.

To view these sites as part of a tour in Google Earth, click here. (You will need the latest version of the Google Earth application installed).


Established in 1982 on coral reefs surrounding Apo Island, the Apo Marine Reserve has been protected continuously for 26 years through the joint efforts of the fishing community, local government, and university. Scientific studies in the reserve, one of the oldest in the world, have provided an unparalleled, long-term understanding of biological changes in marine reserves. These results show that protection over multiple decades can lead to increases in abundance, size, and biomass; benefit the surrounding fisheries; and provide economic benefits to the local communities by increasing tourism and associated revenues.  Read more about Apo Island Marine Reserve...


Sumilon Marine Reserve has had a complex history of management due to changes in local governance. Although the reserve was established in 1974, full protection has been temporarily suspended 2 times for political reasons. Fish abundance decreased sharply when the area was opened to fishing. After full protection was reinstated, the number of fish gradually increased again. The history of this reserve shows that support of local government is critical for long-term effectiveness of marine reserves.  Read more about Sumilon Marine Reserve...
In 2003, 11 marine reserves were established in state waters around the 5 northern Channel Islands in California. These areas were then expanded to include federal waters in 2006 and 2007. Even after only 5 years, the reserves of the Channel Islands are beginning to show the effects of full protection. Marine reserves have more kinds of fish and greater fish biomass than fished areas nearby. Studies of fish movement show that some individuals move from reserves to fished areas outside. Continued ecological and socioeconomic monitoring over the long-term is needed to understand how communities will continue to change after multiple decades of protection. Read more about the Channel Islands marine reserves here, and go here to read more about a Channel Islands reserve that has been protected for multiple decades.


The Dry Tortugas are small islands surrounded by coral reefs with areas governed by different fishing rules. Created after gathering input from commercial fishermen, dive-boat operators, and local environmental groups, the fully-protected no-take marine reserve yielded increases in numbers and sizes of three commercial species within three years. Responses were not as strong in a protected area where recreational fishing was allowed, demonstrating that full protection is preferable for the recovery of certain species. Read more about the marine reserve at the Dry Tortugas...


Created in 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park covers 344,400 square kilometers along Australia’s northeastern coast. The Park Authority recognized it was important to increase the total area protected using the best available science and input from the public. In 2004, the new zoning plan protected more than 33% of the park as marine reserves. Well-defined scientific guidelines and careful consideration of stakeholder interests contributed to the success of this planning process. New data show that the responses to this increase in no-take protection were rapid and positive: coral trout, an important commercial species, increased by 57–75% inside marine reserves in 6 of 8 regions in the Great Barrier Reef.  Read more about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park...
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