How do we gather and review data for Navigator?

Learn about how we collect, gather and review marine protected and managed areas.

  1. Data was collected for each country through an exhaustive search of publicly available documents, websites, digital maps and other sources. Direct contact with management authorities was also made to request information

  2. Areas with legally implemented protections are included with a focus on Marine Protected Areas although other types of managed areas including fisheries management are included when available. More areas will be added over time.
  3. Regulations, management plans, and other legal instruments are reviewed and summarized by our ocean-specialized attorneys. Individual fishing gear types and human activities are marked as allowed, restricted, or prohibited and any focal species mentioned are noted.  See our Data Attributes page for the complete list of what we capture.

  4. Our GIS team reviews boundary data from official sources and matches it to the managed areas. Where boundaries are not available or cannot be verified, they digitize the boundary using the legal description. As of January 2023, roughly 9% of the boundaries in Navigator were digitized by ProtectedSeas. The boundary source is always indicated in the data.

  5. For each area, we assign a Level of Fishing Protection (LFP) score based on a 1-5 scale. When area statistics are reported, the highest LFP score among overlapping areas is used unless otherwise noted. More about that below.

  6. For countries with official languages other than English, Navigator includes regulation summaries translated into the official languages in addition to English. Translations are made with a combination of online tools and native speakers as needed.

Level of Fishing 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 1-5 scale. Where area-based statistics are given, Navigator examines all overlapping areas, and then displays the highest LFP score of all of those areas.

This decision tree displays how LFP scores were assigned.

How Does Navigator Estimate Progress Towards 30×30 By Country?

Researchers have projected that a million plants and animals are at risk of extinction, many within decades. The last extinction event of that magnitude was the one that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. On Dec. 19th 2022 at the UN Biodiversity conference in Montreal, 190 countries signed up to the goal of designating 30% of Earth’s land and ocean area as protected areas by 2030.*

ProtectedSeas estimates the share of oceans that are ‘Highly Protected” from marine life extraction from a legal standpoint by calculating the percentage of any ocean area scored as Heavily and Most restrictive on our LFP scale above. 

  1. To calculate “Highly Restricted” we first sum the marine area for each LFP level for a region of interest choosing the highest LFP across any overlapping individual areas
  2. Then, we divide the marine area for each LFP level by the total country EEZ area as claimed by that country and as recorded in the Flanders Institute Marine Regions database 
  3. Then, we add the percentage of Heavily Restricted and Most Restricted together to estimate “Highly Protected” from a legal standpoint

i.e. Highly Protected Legally = Heavily Restricted + Most Restricted

See below for the LFP assessment of US waters.

A May, 2022 article in Frontiers in Marine Science evaluated the 50 largest MPAs in the United States using the MPA Guide, finding that 25.2% of U.S. waters scored Highly to Fully protected under the Guide’s broad evaluation of MPA effectiveness. This statistic closely matched the ProtectedSeas U.S. evaluation published in Jan, 2021 in Marine Policy that found 25.2% of U.S. waters Heavily to Most Restricted based on LFP.


  • ProtectedSeas does not contain seasonal fishing restrictions that are not area-based, e.g., seasonal fishing restrictions that apply to an entire EEZ. ProtectedSeas is beginning to include fisheries management areas within EEZs, for a few select areas.
  • Boundaries are approximate. Because GIS projection and topology functions can change or generalize coordinates, the spatial boundaries depicted are considered to be approximate representations 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, as site boundaries and restrictions may not be up-to-date.
  • 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 official legislative code (link provided) 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.
  • Conservation Focus. Areas managed for extraction of natural living resources like fishing and take are the focus of Navigator. Military closures, vessel traffic areas and areas managed mainly for recreational and industrial uses may not be included unless they also manage extraction in some form.

Explore in-place marine protections for over 110 countries and territories.

The most comprehensive database of marine life protections and their boundaries available. Navigator is a free, interactive map of regulatory information for marine protected areas (MPAs) and marine managed areas.