Marine World Heritage Sites and the preservation of Oceans

Belize Barrier-Reef Reserve System, marine view, natural reserve, ocean deeps, fish. © UNESCO

Oceans are integral to the health of the planet and also form an important part of the heritage and culture of many people. Traditional and indigenous knowledge is an important asset in managing the ocean resources, which play a major role for the livelihood of the concerned communities.

Through its Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme, for example, UNESCO has collaborated with a team of Mayangna researchers in Nicaragua to gather and transmit the local knowledge and views of the aquatic resources. This information attests to their extensive, detailed knowledge of the fish and turtle species of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, and demonstrates to scientists and policy-makers the depth and breadth of local knowledge of the natural milieu, and the key role that such knowledge must be given in the sustainable development of the region.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention also plays an important role in protecting our oceans. In total 45 marine areas are currently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their exceptional natural features. Together, they cover 1/3 by surface of all Marine Protected Areas on the planet and include 5 of the world's largest Marine Protected Areas.

These World Heritage marine sites are listed for their special value and monitored and evaluated yearly on their management effectiveness under the international protection mechanisms of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.  

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