Protecting and restoring marine and coastal areas is vital to maintain healthy, productive and resilient oceans and seas. Just like natural parks on land, marine protected areas (MPAs) safeguard global marine biodiversity. They also provide many other services, such as maintaining fish stocks, trapping carbon, improving coastal resilience, providing recreation opportunities and enhancing tourism, and contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation. They provide a basis for sustainable marine economic activities and, when located in cross-border regions, are a means for establishing partnerships and peaceful cooperation between countries and communities.

Better ocean governance can only be achieved through consolidated international cooperation and partnerships, such as those building on modes of triangular cooperation (when international organisations, for example, support two developing countries to work together).

International cooperation for ocean governance is particularly relevant for marine and coastal environment protection. Marine biodiversity and ecosystems know no political boundaries and environmental challenges are interconnected to economic, social and governance challenges. Many local economies depend on the sustainable use of marine resources that they share with other regions.

At the same time, the impacts of ecosystem degradation on the marine environment can be felt far beyond the area in which the damage originated. Environmental degradation and stresses contribute to risks, conflicts, social instability and migration. The erosion of coasts and natural coastal protection systems, such as mangroves and coral reefs, for example, render coastal communities more vulnerable to risks associated with extreme weather events and climate change. Restoring coastal systems can thus contribute to increase resilience and security.

Work on MPAs and marine and costal restoration in transboundary zones can provide a natural incentive to build and work around common goals. Although there exist many transboundary protected areas worldwide, most of these are on land. It is hoped that transboundary marine protected areas might play a similar role in the future.

Images: (top) Bermuda. Credit: The Ocean Agency. (right) Humpbacks. Credit: François Baelen.
Images: (top) Bermuda. Credit: The Ocean Agency. (right) Humpbacks. Credit: François Baelen.