Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in North-East Asia

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in North-East Asia

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines MPA as “Any area of intertidal or sub-tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment.”

In North-East Asia, a variety of MPAs can be identified:

  • China: 235 MPAs, consisting of 171 Marine Nature Reserves (at both national and provincial levels), 40 Special Marine Reserves, and 24 Fisheries Genetic Resources Reserves
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK): DPRK does not have protected areas under the specifications of MPA. However, 3 out of 81 natural parks and 10 out of 74 reserves have similar characters to those of MPAs; 26 Marine Resources Reserves.
  • Japan: 29 National Parks, 56 Quasi National Parks, 91 Natural Coastal Protected Zones, 1 Nature Conservation Area (in Okinawa), 82 Wildlife Protection Areas, 55 Protected Water Surface, Natural Habitat Conservation Area, and Natural Monuments
  • Republic of Korea (ROK): 565 Protected areas adjacent to/or related to marine environment, consisting of 6 Protected Marine Areas, 12 Wetland Protection Areas, 4 Marine Environment Conservation Areas, 10 Fisheries Resource Protection Areas, 167 Special Islands, 4 National Parks, 3 Ecosystem/Landscape Conservation Areas, 166 Wildlife Protection Areas, and 193 Natural Heritages
  • Russian Federation: 10 marine nature reserves, 2 national parks, and 10 wildlife refuges

The MPAs in North-East Asia show, however, some severe limitations:

  • New concept: Protected areas have been mostly in the terrestrial context; most MPAs have only been designated within the last decade
  • Different terminologies: Characteristics, purposes and regulations regarding MPAs vary by country - marine nature reserves (China), national parks (Japan), wildlife reserves (Russian Federation), wetland reserves and ecosystem reserves (Republic of Korea), and habitat reserves (DPRK)
  • Inconsistency in MPA identification: Statistics about the number of MPAs in the region vary among different countries, international organizations, and research organizations
  • Different institutional settings of management: Administering bodies of MPAs include different ministries and entities that operate at various levels of local and national governments
  • Deficiencies in national-level MPA networks: Attempts to create national-level MPA networks are hindered by the borderless nature of the marine environment
  • Limited international cooperation: Despite the international monitoring efforts, North-East Asia lacks a comprehensive approach encompassing the entire region
  • North-East Asian Marine Protected Areas Network (NEAMPAN)

The NEAMPAN was launched at the SOM-17 (2012) and member States endorsed its Terms of References during the SOM-18 (2013). It aims to establish an effective, functional representative network of MPAs in the subregion for conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity and more efficient MPA management. The Network focuses on (1) protection of key marine animals and their habitats, (2) sustainable use of marine resources, and (3) effective MPA management as its priority themes by (1) holding regular network meetings, (2) conducting in-depth research, (3) providing training courses for capacity building, and (4) networking with relevant regional and global mechanisms. Covering all the seas of North-East Asia where MPAs of the five member States (China, DPRK, Japan, ROK and the Russian Federation) are located, the scope of target MPAs shall be mostly project-based at an initial stage and be further elaborated scientifically at a later stage.


  • NEAMPAN Sites

- China: (1) Nanji Islands National Marine Nature Reserve; (2) Shankou Mangrove National Marine Nature Reserve; (3) Beilun Estuary National Marine Nature Reserve; (4) National Nature Reserve of Dazhou Island Marine Ecosystems; (5) Sanya Coral Reef National Nature Reserve; and (6) Changyi National Marine Ecology Special Protected Area

- Japan: (1) Shiretoko

- Republic of Korea: (1) Suncheon Bay Wetland Protected Area; and (2) Muan Wetland Protected Area

- Russian Federation: (1) Sikhote-Alin State Natural Biosphere Reserve; and (2) Far-Eastern State Marine Biosphere Reserve

NEASPEC Secretariat