The World’s New ‘Water Parks’

Less than three percent.

That’s the portion of the world’s oceans now set aside for conservation — a small safety net that ecologists are working to increase.

Joining a wave of new marine reserves, Australia recently designated 382,000 square miles in the Coral Sea to preserve an area of fish-haloed seamounts, turtle nesting areas, and 25 reefs where most commercial fishing and extractive activities will now be prohibited.

Snorkelers and ecotourists closer to American shores have welcomed the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, an impressive effort by ten governments with the goal of protecting 20 percent of their coastal shelf by 2020.

And California recently established some 1,027 square miles of new marine protected areas, capping off the U.S.’s largest such network. The network will limit habitat destruction in nearly a hundred places like the Farallon Islands and Point Reyes.

So where’s this current headed? “We’ll see the creation of more reserves,” says marine ecologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Enric Sala. “Governments see that it’s good for their image, and communities see that reserves create jobs and raise more revenue than overfishing.”

This piece, written by Rhett Register, appeared in the December/January issue of National Geographic Traveler. There’s a lot that’s not online. Subscribe today to get the print edition for just $10 a year.



  1. The Miles Professor
    New York, New York
    February 12, 2013, 9:50 am

    i went to St. Lucia in 2011. It has beautiful snorkeling and scenery.

    I love going to the Caribbean and snorkeling everywhere. I go a few times a year and use miles and points to fly there and stay at nice hotels. I am going to Bahamas in a few months and staying at British Colonial Hilton with Hilton points… I plan to check out the marine life while there.

    It’s actually not hard to get there with miles and points and many nice hotels are available. I use the searchable database at , which includes every hotel in the Caribbean that you can get with points.

  2. santi cahyaningrum
    February 12, 2013, 6:52 am

    woow, very cute fish. indonesia also has so much population of fishes.

  3. Mark
    February 12, 2013, 2:43 am

    I’ve spent the last years enjoying the beautiful Australia sea life.

    We have done everything from scuba diving with Pro Dive Cairns which was amazing. We then headed down the coast for whale watching in Sydney with Manly Ocean Adventures, which was brilliant as you get to travel on a smaller boat which is much more personal.

    You really get to appreciate the conservation when you see it face to face. And also realise the devastation. I am fully behind conservation and think we must do everything we can to prevent the industries getting their grubby hands on our environment.