A new database that aims to provide more details and context on marine protected areas worldwide is in late-stage development. Called MPAtlas and already viewable online (www.mpatlas.org ), the project is a joint effort of the Marine Conservation Institute and the Waitt Foundation.

“We undertook this project to help the global MPA community better understand where MPAs are and what they are doing to protect marine life,” says Lance Morgan, project director and president of the Marine Conservation Institute. “One of the difficulties with a term as general as ‘marine protected area’ is that it means different things to different people. The MPAtlas project provides context, especially on the issue of fishing. For example, the database categorizes no-take areas differently from areas with partial fishing restrictions and from areas with no fishing restrictions at all.”

Most of the core functions of the MPAtlas.org website are expected to be complete by the end of August 2012. Users will be able to click and explore existing and proposed MPA sites, as well as filter information on MPAs by country, ecoregion, and protection level. The site also contains an “MPApedia”, a wiki page on marine protected areas where visitors can contribute their own knowledge on the subject. The MPAtlas project incorporates information from the World Database on Protected Areas, the US MPA Inventory, and other sources.