FAQs Navigator


What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) and a Marine Managed Area (MMA)? Why are they important?

According to NOAA, marine protected areas (MPAs) and marine managed areas (MMAs) have the same base definition

  • Any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.  

However, setting the same base definition aside, the scope of MMAs and MPAs differs based on the distinct definitions and usage of the terms “area,” “marine environment,” “protection level,” “duration,” and “management objectives” in each designation. 

MMAs and MPAs are important tools since they can help to protect against overfishing, protect species biodiversity, and serve as reference areas for the scientific community to study the ocean.

What is an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZs) and what is a Territorial Sea?

An exclusive economic zone, commonly referred to as an EEZ, is an area of the ocean extending beyond a country’s Territorial Sea out to 200 nautical miles from the coastline, over which the country has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.

Territorial sea refers to the boundary line that defines a coastal nation’s territorial waters. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), every coastal country has the right to establish a territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) from its coastline.

How can I contribute to Navigator?

ProtectedSeas Navigator is the most comprehensive interactive database of marine life protections and their boundaries, but it’s not complete. We still need:

  • Fisheries management areas outside of North America. To determine if these areas are available for a given country, check the country release notes in each country report page.
  • Locally and Indigenously Managed Marine Area information.
  • Assistance from regional and local experts input to help keep our data up-to-date.

By providing information for your country or a place you manage or care about, you will make the global picture of marine life protections more comprehensive. Certain areas of the ocean may appear unprotected but they have more safeguards than we know about. With your help, we can integrate more fisheries management areas and other place-based ocean protections, which Navigator can weave together into an even more comprehensive map of protected areas. We are always happy to provide attribution to our information providers.

Contact us to submit new information or corrections. Thank you in advance for contributing to this global resource!

Why is the ocean so underprotected?

Limited resources, lack of political will, strong commercial interests, and uncoordinated governance structures are just some of the many reasons why our ocean does not receive adequate protection. 

According to Navigator data, only 3.4% of the ocean and 6.9% of national EEZs are deemed highly protected against fishing. To increase oceanic protections, more information needs to be available and accessible for scientists, politicians, and the public to use. Designed and developed by the ProtectedSeas team, the purpose of Navigator is to help connect people with existing ocean regulatory information on how our ocean is protected.


What types of information can I find regarding fishing gear or activities on Navigator?

We selected 20+ marine- and fishing-related activities, and for each area code whether those activities are allowed, restricted, or prohibited.

  • Bottom Trawling
  • Commercial Fishing
  • Gillnetting
  • Hook And Line
  • Longlining
  • Miscellaneous Gear
  • Nets
  • Recreational Fishing
  • Spear Fishing
  • Traps And Pots
  • Trolling

For these coded activities, users can analyze and compare data at whatever scale they desire, by region or for the entire world. As an example, with Navigator, users can find answers to questions such as “Which locations allow bottom trawling?” or “Where is anchoring prohibited?” for a state, region, country, or globally.

Additionally,  independent of gear used, Navigator indicates whether commercial and recreational fishing generally are allowed, restricted, or prohibited.

In select areas, where information is available, Navigator can provide insights on the following activities:

  • Anchoring
  • Construction
  • Discharge
  • Diving
  • Dragging
  • Dredging
  • Drilling
  • Entry
  • Industrial or Mineral Exploration
  • Landing
  • Overflight or Drones
  • Removal of Historic Artifacts
  • Speed
  • Stopping
How do I search for a specific location or MPA?

You can search for a place or MPA by name using the search bar. Or you can zoom in to the area of interest on the map, and click on it to see all of the areas at that point, and then select the area of interest.

Why is Navigator important?

Before Navigator, regulatory information and boundary data was often either unavailable or hard to find. Accessing this information and making sense of it could be difficult and time-consuming. Now, with the help of Navigator, users can access previously difficult to access or unavailable regulatory and boundary data for free. Navigator is the first map ever to show detailed restrictions and regulatory references for protected areas in the entire ocean worldwide. Its goal is to accelerate assessments of conservation, so that efforts can be focused strategically on creating conservation, where needed, worldwide.

How did the Navigator Team collate and collect all of this information?
In all cases, whether research was conducted online or through emails and phone calls, the Navigator team sourced regulation directly from the relevant authorities, and was able to collate all of this information through partnerships and collaborations with governmental and non-governmental organizations, such as the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and others.
Who are potential users of Navigator?

Navigator data serves as a vital tool for politicians, scientists, and conservationists seeking to understand or enhance ocean conservation measures. Navigator’s insights into current ocean protections give policymakers the ability to be more deliberate in establishing new conservation efforts globally, directing them towards regions lacking safeguards.

Navigator can also help to communicate the progress of global environmental goals, such as 30×30, which seeks to conserve 30% of Earth’s terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030.

What is the criteria for including an area in Navigator?

ProtectedSeas uses a standardized process to collect, synthesize, and map MPAs and other MMAs. After creating a list of MPAs and MMAs, ProtectedSeas goes through a series of decisions on whether they’re able to be included in Navigator. The Methodology diagram shows the process that the ProtectedSeas team uses to source data. 

Restrictions: The restricted activities listed for each area ProtectedSeas collected provides a summary of restrictions cited in official legislation and management plans. For full details on the restrictions, check the official record, federal register notice, or legal code provided in the URL links if available.


Boundary data comes from the agency or source listed for each area. When digital boundaries  are not available, ProtectedSeas’ GIS team creates them from coordinates and descriptions in legal code, if possible. Boundary source citations  are provided in the site attributes.

Discrepancies in area boundaries may arise due to the difference in shoreline/area resolution. For example, large area boundaries for MPAs or MMAs will typically use lower resolution shorelines. Smaller, more local area boundaries for MPAs or MMAs often have higher resolution shorelines. Where small areas and large areas overlap, shorelines mapped at different scales may not match exactly.

If you have information on additional areas you think should be included, please send us a message via our Contact Form.

How is this data updated?

We are informed about regulation changes through our contacts and through automated alerts based on changes to regulation websites. Based on the information we receive, we regularly update Navigator with new areas and changes to existing ones.

A version history is kept so that we record all published data and changes. If you notice an error, please let us know by sending us a message.

Why do areas overlap?

Authorities create place-based regulations pursuant to their political directive, their jurisdiction, and where they identify a need to regulate activities, such as fishing, recreation, mining, or military activities. When multiple authorities have jurisdiction over the same area, i.e. federal or state marine waters, a mix of restrictions may apply for any ocean space, and it can be complex to understand the level and type of protection that exists there.

Navigator strives to illuminate this complexity in an approachable way by showing all place-based marine protections for every ocean space, even if those protections conflict.

What does a “Restricted” activity mean?

Most marine managed areas are managed for multiple purposes to meet their intended conservation goals. Management is generally communicated through legal documents, such as regulations, acts, decrees, proclamations, or management plans. The Navigator team has researched and compiled these documents with an eye toward the human activity restrictions within them and has summarized them on the Navigator map, so users can quickly see how to operate within the protection measures in place.

To see all the restrictions gathered in a given ocean space, click the map while under the ‘Restrictions’ tab, then press “See all restrictions.”

How does Navigator assess levels of marine protection?

Navigator is able to assess a level of protection for the entire globe or for individual countries or regions, based on the restrictions on marine life extraction within MPA regulations or other official place-based regulations. The Navigator team analyzes these restrictions for each area and assigns a Level of Fishing Protection (LFP) score. The LFP score ranges from 1 to 5, with a 1 LFP score meaning that the area has no boundary-specific fishing restrictions and a 5 LFP score meaning the area is a no-take area (see more here). Based on these LFP scores, the Navigator team can calculate a level of protection within any defined ocean space.

The LFP scores can be a useful tool to help estimate progress toward global environmental goals, such as 30×30, which seeks to conserve 30% of Earth’s terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030.

What types of assessment methods does Navigator support?

Ocean protection assessments take many forms and consider multiple factors. These factors include human activity restrictions, habitats, species distribution, socio-economics, management effectiveness, monitoring, and more. By providing rich data on human activity restrictions and in-place management measures, Navigator can accelerate many types of analysis that consider these factors. Where fishing is concerned, Navigator’s Level of Fishing Protection (LFP) provides a globally consistent and comparable metric on the baseline strength of legal fishing protection if complied with and enforced. 

Whatever the assessment method, the ProtectedSeas team has gathered a great amount of detailed data that can help facilitate comprehensive analysis.

How does ProtectedSeas intend to take the data from Navigator and make sure it influences national and global ocean policy down the road?

ProtectedSeas made Navigator a free tool so that more people, organizations, governments, and the scientific community can get involved in advocating for the protection of our ocean and strengthening marine regulations.

In the U.S., through our NOAA public-private partnership, Navigator helps inform the U.S. MPA Inventory.

The U.S. MPA Inventory catalogs all the MPAs found in U.S. waters and informs the U.S. Protected Areas Database (PAD-US). PAD-US collects data on all the national, state, and regional parks, nature preserves, wildlife refuges, and other protected sites in the U.S. PAD-US will assist in creating the Biden Administration’s 30×30 America the Beautiful Stewardship Atlas – an accessible and comprehensive catalog of nature conservation and restoration work nationwide. As a result, due to its informing PAD-US, Navigator data will help U.S. policymakers and scientists make decisions for 30×30.

Globally, Navigator’s cross-references to the IUCN World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA). WDPA helps scientists and policy makers conduct their assessments related to WDPA reported MPAs and provides an independent, third-party perspective on the relative strength of each country’s MPA network in terms of LFP.

The LFP scores can be a useful tool to help estimate progress toward global environmental goals, such as 30×30, which seeks to conserve 30% of Earth’s terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030.

What is the correct way to cite the Navigator data?

To cite the map directly, please use the following:
The ProtectedSeas Navigator Map of Conservation Regulations, ProtectedSeas®, https://map.navigatormap.org, (last visited [date]).

To cite downloaded data, please use the following:
Navigator Data Download, ProtectedSeas®, https://navigatormap.org/data-request , (last visited [date]).

Are there limitations and disclaimers with using the Navigator data?

Yes, see here.