To mark UN World Oceans Day on June 8, this chart tackles the topic of protected marine areas. Globally, 28.05 million square kilometers of all oceans and coastal waters were declared marine protected areas in 2021, according to data from the Protected Planet initiative. This represents about 7.7% of the total area of oceans and coastal waters. Despite increased efforts in the 2010s, the goal of placing 10% of the waters in these areas under protection by 2020 has not been met. Looking forward though, a UN-led initiative - 30x30 - to achieve 30% protection by 2030 (plus 30% on land) gained the approval of around 190 countries at the COP15 in December 2022.
As our chart shows, efforts to declare marine areas in need of protection did not pick up steam until the 21st century. Progress was slow from 1990 to 2005, with less than one million additional square kilometers designated as marine protected areas during that period. In contrast, the biggest jump occurred between 2016 and 2017. By the end of 2017, over five million more km² were under protection than in the previous year.