Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an instrument for placing particular areas under protection. MPAs can be established both in international and in territorial waters of coastal states. Generally they are used to pursue individual protection objectives. Thus the establishment of a MPA does not mean that the sea area may no longer be used at all and is protected in every respect. MPAs are designated, for example, for the purpose of allowing overfished fish stocks to recover. In other cases, trawl fishing is prohibited in order to conserve sensitive habitats on the sea floor. But in the water column above it, fishing continues to be allowed. So most MPAs do not give comprehensive protection from the sea floor to the water surface. Shipping in a sea area cannot be restricted indiscriminately, for example, because freedom of shipping is applicable in international waters and in the exclusive economic zones. Currently all MPAs have a total area of around 12 million square kilometres, which amounts to just 3.4 per cent of the global ocean surface. Of the area classified as high seas, just one per cent of the ocean surface enjoys MPA protection. On this evidence, humankind is still far from the conservation goal set by the United Nations at the biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010: there it was agreed that at least 10 per cent of the global ocean surface should be placed under protection by the year 2020.
National states can designate MPAs for their own waters. In order to establish a MPA in international waters, on the other hand, the countries which make use of the sea area must reach agreement on the common protection objective, as in the case of the NEAFC and the Charlie Gibbs area. In a few cases to date, this has delayed or completely blocked the designation of MPAs. In the opinion of experts, there are too few protected areas at present. Moreover, the few that exist are often very iso-lated from one another. In keeping with the principles of species and habitat conservation, it would make more sense to link protected areas in a trans-regional network because many species meriting protection are often wide-ranging in their distribution.