Research Impact


Shaping the international protection of oceans, coasts and marine ecosystems

To sustain and protect the health of our oceans, the research and expertise of Professor Peter Jones is shaping international policy to improve the governance of all-important Marine Protected Areas.

A hand using a tool to measure a crustacean.

12 April 2022

Our lives depend on the world’s oceans, and we demand more of their resources and benefits with each passing year, yet their health is declining through human impacts such as overfishing and climate change.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which limit human activities in a designated patch of ocean, offer one of the best ways to maintain and restore the health of ocean and coastal ecosystems. Professor Peter Jones’ (UCL Department of Geography) research has explored how different environmental governance approaches can best protect marine species and ecosystems within MPAs, whilst fairly sharing the costs and benefits.

Putting sustainability at the heart

Professor Jones has developed an MPA Governance (MPAG) research framework to help analyse both social and ecological factors to understand and promote the most sustainable outcome for both people and nature.

For example, providing governance incentives to promote sustainable whale shark watching in Australia’s Ningaloo Marine Park, or sustainable lobster fishing in Madagascar. The latter has helped change local fisheries law, building capacity within the Sainte Luce locally managed marine area and boosting vital livelihoods from the lobster fishery in a sustainable way.

The framework that Professor Jones has developed directly supports a UN initiative to meet international targets to protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. So far, this governance analysis framework has been applied to 50 MPA case studies in 24 countries across six continents.

Influencing international policy

Professor Jones’ research evidence and expertise is making a difference internationally; he has contributed to the UN Environment Frontiers 2017 report that has influenced policy to achieve the UN sustainable development goal on strengthening and restoring marine ecosystems.

He has also co-authored a UN Environment Programme guidance on ways to make MPAs both effective and fair to local people, as well as contributing to an International Union for Conservation document aimed at practitioners from the World Parks Congress.

Supporting marine life in the UK

Closer to home, Professor Jones’ expertise has influenced policies by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), including the commitment in the department’s 25 year plan to ‘move to a whole-site approach to protect sites of greatest biodiversity interest’.

He has recently been invited to share his expertise on DEFRA’s advisory group on Highly Protected Marine Areas, or fishing ‘no-take’ areas. Professor Jones is also a government appointee to the Committee of the Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (SxIFCA), where his expertise has been applied to decisions and actions concerning the governance of ten MPAs within the seas off Sussex.

His recommendation to adopt a matrix approach to restrictions on fishing activities within specific zones of an MPA at different times of the year has been adopted into the MPA byelaw. By making such details clear, he has brought fishers on side by helping them to understand and cooperate with the restrictions.

Research synopsis

Shaping international protection of oceans and coastal ecosystems through marine protected areas 

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are vital to sustain and protect the health of our oceans. Professor Peter Jones’s research and expertise has shaped international, national and regional policies and practice, improving MPA governance in ways that consider social and ecological factors. These changes benefit marine ecosystems and the people who depend upon them. 



  • Image credit: Jo Brooksbank and SEED Madagascar.