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Unique new tool points out lack of ocean parks, shows hope for the future

SAN DIEGO, CA – In celebration of World Oceans Day, the La Jolla based Waitt Foundation and the Marine Conservation Institute announced the launch of a new online tool at MPAtlas, dedicated to bringing the importance of ocean parks into the public eye.

The world’s oceans are facing enormous adversity from environmental degradation, overfishing, and pollution. Science has shown that the establishment of ocean parks, or marine protected areas (MPA), can mitigate these harms, thereby restoring and revitalizing fragile marine ecosystems. MPAtlas is the foremost database of global MPAs. It is an online digital map that assembles key information on marine protected areas around the world. An interactive and user-friendly platform, MPAtlas is geared towards providing a comprehensive scope of data for conservation advocates, scientists, policy makers, and the interested public alike.

"Ocean life is in dire straits, with marine fisheries collapsing worldwide, and entire ecosystems disappearing – but people don't know that story. Marine protected areas are not just a tool for restoring the environment and distressed fisheries – they are economic engines for the countries and communities who establish them. MPAtlas is a new and essential way to engage the public in this discussion, and a step forward for marine science," said Dr. Enric Sala, Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society.

The appeal of MPAtlas is in the global scale of the website. There are constant pushes to safeguard more of the ocean each year, yet today, less than one percent is protected. This project has compiled and synthesized information to help website users understand the level of protection, biodiversity, biomass, size, and management authorities of MPAs. Conservation organizations and policy makers will find such updates crucial in planning how they aim to move forward with marine preservation and management projects. Recreational users such as SCUBA divers and ocean kayakers are able to use the site to log their adventures and learn about the world's best underwater parks.

"We work with government and industry leaders every day to advocate for unique and innovative ways to restore ocean health. But real progress on this urgent global problem will only come once the public engages to insist that we, as a global community, work toward sustainable ocean solutions Ocean parks are a key tool in turning back the clock toward a brighter future, and MPAtlas.org will go a long way in helping us to sound that call," commented Dr. Greg Stone, Chief Scientist for Oceans at Conservation International.

The launch of MPAtlas marks a huge step towards attaining large-scale oceanic protection. Governments, organizations, and individuals will be provided with a clearer picture of local and global MPAs; this increased awareness is necessary for ensuring the long-term vitality of our ocean and our futures. The stories of vibrant ocean places are catalogued on MPAtlas.

Announcing the release, Gateway, Inc. co-founder and Waitt Foundation president Ted Waitt commented: “Our main interest is creating a tool to help gain more protection worldwide. Not only will MPAtlas serve as the only centralized and up-to-date source for what ocean spaces are currently protected, but will also be the go-to resource for the public to engage with and support proposed protected areas.”
To learn more, please visit MPAtlas and sign in using Facebook, or create an account today!

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