FAQs Navigator


Why Navigator?

Navigator is the first map that not only shows boundary information for Marine Protected Areas, but also displays the detailed restrictions and regulation information related to extraction of natural living resources (i.e. fishing and take). These data provide an important resource for understanding the detail of ocean protections and the location of those protections to inform progress and plans for reaching goals like 30×30.

How are areas selected to be included?

 The diagram shows the process that the ProtectedSeas team uses to source data. ProtectedSeas uses a standardized process to collect, synthesize, and map MPAs and other MMAs.

Restrictions: The restricted activities listed for each area provide a summary of restrictions cited in official legislation and management plans. For complete description of the restrictions, users need to consult the official record, federal register notice or state/federal code provided as URL links when available.

Boundaries: When available, the boundary data are obtained from the managing agency or authoritative source referenced for each managed area. When these data are not available, have not been drawn or are out-of-date, the boundaries are drafted from coordinates and boundary descriptions cited in state or federal code. Links to online sources/code are provided for each managed area in the site attributes.

State and regional boundaries that cover large areas will often use a low-moderate resolution shoreline to depict the landward boundary of an MPA or MMA. Local boundaries that cover small areas will use a higher resolution shoreline. In areas where local and regional scale boundaries overlap, discrepancies between these shorelines (mapped at different scales) will be apparent.

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 regularly update Navigator with newly implemented areas as well updates to existing areas. Update information is obtained through multiple channels, including automated alerts of changes to applicable regulations, management authority review, and feedback provided by users. Changes made between versions are recorded and published with the downloadable data. If you notice errors for an area, please let us know by sending us a message here. However, we are not local-knowledge experts, and occasionally something may slip through the cracks, which is why we also rely on support from management authorities or researchers, when possible. Nonetheless, Navigator is the only comprehensive database of its kind and hosts an absolute wealth of information. We remain committed to ensuring its accuracy over the long-term.

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]).

Why aren’t there any areas for my country or some areas missing?

ProtectedSeas is working to map all global areas – but it’s a big task! If you have data you would like to share, please send us a message via our Contact Form. We are especially seeking MPA regulations and boundary data for Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.  We are also interested in adding Fisheries Management and Locally Managed Areas (LMMAs) whenever data is available.


Why do areas overlap?

Many areas have overlapping jurisdictions and a given ocean space may be managed under different authorities for different intents. As such, Navigator may show that a given ocean area regulates a certain activity (e.g. commercial fishing) under one authority while prohibiting that same activity under a different authority. This application is intended to show all regulations that apply to a given ocean area and does not impose an order on how these regulations apply.

Why is an activity allowed?

Most marine managed areas allow a wide range of uses consistent with their conservation intent. However, Navigator focuses specifically on the kinds of extraction activities (fishing and take) that are restricted or prohibited by law or management in most Marine Protected Areas. While not the focus of this effort, details on other kinds of uses and recreational opportunities may be found through the website links provided for each managed area.

Does Navigator assess Level of Protection?
ProtectedSeas assigns a Level of Fishing Protection (LFP) score to each area based on an analysis of restrictions on marine life extraction, coded on a Likert 1-5 scale. Only area-specific restrictions are considered in scoring each MPA or MMA. As a result, generally applicable restrictions, i.e. restrictions that aren’t specific to an MPA or MMA but apply to an entire EEZ or subnational region, do not inform the LFP score.

LFP ScoreMeaningDescription
5Most RestrictiveMarine life removal is prohibited (or entry is prohibited)
4Heavily RestrictiveMarine life removal is mostly prohibited, with few exceptions, e.g. very limited or relatively non-intrusive recreational/sport or subsistence fishing
3Moderately RestrictiveSeveral species- or gear-specific restrictions apply, or:

2Less RestrictiveAt least one species- or gear-specific restriction applies (beyond permit requirements or generally applicable restrictions)
1Least RestrictiveNo known restrictions on marine life removal beyond national or subnational generally applicable restrictions

The decision tree below is used to standardize the LFP scoring across sites:

What types of Fishing / Activities Does Navigator Assess?
For each area, data from legal texts and management plans are reviewed, summarized, and used to inform retsriction-related attributes. Review is focused on marine-related activities, which also informs the restriction status, as described in the table below, for 20+ marine- and fishing-related activities. Again, only area-specific restrictions are considered in assigning restriction status.

0AllowedAccording to regulations or management plans, the activity is expressly allowed
1ProhibitedAccording to regulations or management plans, the activity is expressly prohibited, or belongs to an expressly prohibited group of activities (e.g. “all fishing” encompasses each individual fishing gear)
2RestrictedAccording to regulations or management plans, the activity is neither expressly allowed or prohibited, but a restriction exists on the activity, or group of activities it belongs to
3N/A or UnknownThe activity is not mentioned in regulations or management plans specifically applicable to the site

Navigator’s fishing gear and activity based restrictions can be used to support various types of assessment at the area level or more holistically across overlapping jurisdictions. Our hexmap of combined fishing prohibitions for the U.S. is one example showing the potential impact of overlapping restrictions on ocean protection.

What types of assessments does Navigator support?
We are experimenting with various methods to rate protection including the Regulation Based Classification System and the MPA Guide. Ultimately, an ideal method would:

  • factor in all regulations in a specific location bearing on human use, living and non-living resource extraction, and ecosystem protection
  • weight protections based on their likely efficacy
  • consider management resources, monitoring, and enforcement
  • create a combined score that would more accurately reflect the level of protection in an area.

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

How does the MPA Guide relate to ProtectedSeas Navigator?
A key aspect of the MPA Guide is the assessment of Levels of Protection. These levels require identifying the allowed status and impact of 7 general activities including fishing, mining, construction, and aquaculture. Navigator contains a wealth of regulation information for each MPA to help answer the necessary questions to assign MPA Guide protection levels. Specifically, Navigator encompasses a suite of information that can facilitate completion of analysis based upon the recently unveiled MPA Guide. This includes over 10 matching fields that provide information about specific fishing gears and other non-fishing activities that can be used to complete the MPA Guide Level of Protection assessment.
What are the ways the MPA Guide Levels of Protection are similar to, or different from, the Levels of Protection in Navigator?
The MPA Guide is a framework to assess protection based on the stage of MPA establishment and allowed human activities including specific fishing methods as well as an extensive list of other extractive and non-extractive activities. While ProtectedSeas does attempt to document multiple extractive activities (mining, construction or aquaculture), it focuses on extraction of marine life, and assesses a protection framework – Level of Fishing (LFP) protection – that focuses on fishing and other extraction of marine life. LFP is based on the general level of commercial and recreational fishing restrictions. Navigator also documents 8 specific gear-types when they are outlined in regulation. In practice, areas with significant fishing restrictions also restrict other damaging activities – so assessed levels of protection for a site in both systems are often similar. For each area, ProtectedSeas Navigator provides not only a LFP but also the detailed regulatory content on which it is based for use with other assessment methods.
Moving forward, how will ProtectedSeas ensure the data from Navigator is incorporated into future decision-making processes on a national and international scale?

Navigator is available on a free and open basis. Through our NOAA public-private partnership, Navigator helps inform
the U.S. MPA inventory which in turn informs the U.S. Protected Areas Database (PADUS) and the upcoming 30×30 America the Beautiful Stewardship Atlas. International Navigator data is also cross referenced to areas in the IUCN World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA) for those conducting global assessments, as well as in other relevant areas.

EEZ & Territorial Seas Limits
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and Territorial Sea Limits are sourced from Marine Regions unless otherwise noted.
Limitations and Disclaimers
  • Boundaries are approximate.
    • Boundaries are based on official governmental boundaries whenever possible. Boundaries may be approximate and are not an official record for the exact regulated area boundaries.
  • Not intended for enforcement purposes.
    • Navigator is a guide and for informational purposes only.
  • Data may not be up-to-date.
    • Navigator is updated intermittently and boundaries and restrictions are only current as of the last update.
  • Regulations are summarized.
    • The information on restricted activities is a distilled summary and does not represent the complete official regulations as cited in the legislative code. Users must refer to the appropriate legal source (cited and link provided when possible) for the complete official description of regulations and restrictions.
  • Multiple restrictions may apply at once.
    • Areas and their related restrictions are not listed in a hierarchical order based on level of restrictions. In areas where there are discrepancies among regulations across varying jurisdictions, it should be assumed that the most restrictive regulations apply.
  • Only marine (saltwater/coastal) areas are included.
    • Boundaries and regulations for Inland managed areas are not included in Navigator.
  • Navigator only contains place-based restrictions with a conservation focus.
    • Areas managed for extraction of natural living resources, like fishing and other take, are the focus of Navigator. Military closures, vessel traffic areas, and areas managed mainly for recreational and industrial uses may be missing.
    • Navigator does not contain a comprehensive list of fishing restrictions and does not contain restrictions that are not area-based, e.g. fishing restrictions that apply to an entire EEZ or only apply to certain marine users or vessels.
  • ProtectedSeas’ legal analysis considers each place-based measure individually.
    • Each place-based restriction is analyzed separately from any other overlapping measures under different authorities. The resulting activity coding is therefore not cumulative, but only indicative of the regulation and management for each unique area. This can result in an area appearing less protected than a cumulative analysis of all applicable regulations might indicate.
  • Regulations are interpreted narrowly.
    • For an activity to be coded as prohibited, the legal source must clearly and completely prohibit the activity, without exception or in such a way to apply only to specific species, people, seasons, gear, or vessels. Without a clear and complete prohibition, the activity will be coded as restricted or unknown.