The past two decades have experienced a surge in the number of marine protected areas designated around the world. Some are small, some larger; some are no-take, some multiple-use. The global collection of MPAs -- consisting of thousands of sites worldwide -- has evolved to feature a broad range of designs, management regimes, and goals.
But from what did this MPA constellation evolve? How has MPA practice changed since the first marine protected area? And what do those changes mean for how practitioners should plan for the future?
To begin to answer these questions, one must first decide on when the first MPA was designated. This point is surprisingly unclear. Last month, in the coral_list online discussion group (see box at end of article), the question of when the first MPA was designated elicited answers suggesting sites across the globe, with designation dates ranging decades or more.