What is the Global Ocean Refuge System?

The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced “glories”) is an initiative developed and led by Marine Conservation Institute. GLORES is designed to catalyze strong protection for 30% of the ecosystems in each marine biogeographic region of the world’s oceans by 2030. It is a strategic, science-based way to safeguard marine ecosystems and recover the diversity and abundance of marine life for us and future generations.

GLORES uses a geographic framework to ensure that all marine regions are protected, from the tropical seas to the polar oceans and from coastlines to the deepest trenches. To protect and manage these critically important places, GLORES uses transparent and scientific criteria for effective conservation as well as a prestigious designation – Global Ocean Refuge –  to help incentivize governments and decision makers to protect important ocean places. Well-managed areas that protect critical habitats for marine biological diversity will be eligible to earn Global Ocean Refuge Platinum, Gold or Silver awards.

What are the current Global Ocean Refuges?

In 2017, we announced our first Global Ocean Refuges: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Each is an exemplary marine protected area that safeguards rich and irreplaceable marine ecosystems.

Why should I care about GLORES?

Healthy oceans are essential to human survival and prosperity, but they are in deep trouble worldwide due to overfishing, climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. The best way to maintain the oceans’ biological diversity, abundance and resilience is to protect marine life in their ecosystems. A global system of strongly protected marine areas will help people regain the benefits of healthy oceans including abundant fresh seafood, recreational opportunities, a diversity of wildlife, high paying jobs and strong coastal economies.

Aren’t there other efforts underway to protect marine areas?

Just over 1% of the oceans are strongly protected in no-take marine reserves ― free from fishing and other damaging practices. One percent is not enough. To truly protect marine life, marine scientists recommend strongly protecting 30% of our oceans. In addition, most of the important and vulnerable ecosystems are not yet protected and others are vastly underrepresented. GLORES provides a roadmap for integrating existing efforts and complements these by conserving ecologically important areas and representative habitats within one system.

Designed to greatly expand the number and size of strong marine protected areas, the Global Ocean Refuge System is complementary to other conservation efforts to conserve important ocean places. GLORES provides a comprehensive, global conservation framework focused on recovering populations and maintaining the oceans’ resilience to future threats.

What is the difference between a "Marine Protected Area" and a "No-take Marine Reserve"?

The definition of a marine protected area (MPA) is not uniform throughout the world, though, when MPAs are created, they tend to share the same objectives - to protect biodiversity, cultural heritage and promote sustainable fishing. Nevertheless, there is a complex assortment of MPA types with differing protection levels, permanence and purposes.

No-take marine reserves are a type of MPA that prohibit all extractive and damaging activities.  Most marine reserves are established with the goal of increasing the abundance and diversity of marine life inside the reserve. Scientific research shows that reserves consistently accomplish this goal, which can be a boon to not only the marine inhabitants but also to the human communities that surround reserves. In contrast to many MPAs that allow a number of human activities, marine reserves set a higher standard and provide a greater level of protection. Marine reserves are also often described as "no-take" marine protected areas. The vast majority of ocean area protected by no-take marine reserves exists in a few large regions, which tend to be far from coasts, and is therefore not necessarily representative of the oceans’ biodiversity.

What are the core elements of GLORES?

  1. SCIENCE-BASED: GLORES is a partnership among marine biologists, conservationists and others to provide a scientifically credible designation for marine protected areas that integrates marine ecology principles such as biogeography, metapopulation connectivity and resilience.
  2. EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT: Through working with partners such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, GLORES integrates management and monitoring effectiveness into its standards.
  3. COLLABORATION: GLORES provides a comprehensive, global conservation framework that serves as a roadmap for integrating existing efforts to conserve ecologically important areas and representative habitats within one system.
  4. RECOGNIZED EXCELLENCE: GLORES provides substantial public recognition in the form of a highly credible and meaningful conservation award – Global Ocean Refuge status – that acknowledges the outstanding conservation work of communities and managers to protect an important marine area. 

What are the immediate threats to oceans?

In the oceans, as on land and in freshwater, humans are:

  • Overexploiting species, taking more than can be naturally replenished
  • Physically altering or destroying the ecosystems in which species live
  • Polluting habitats with toxic materials, excessive levels of nutrients and
  • Introducing alien species into places where they had never previously
    existed, wreaking havoc on native species
  • Altering the composition of the atmosphere, changing our climate, acidifying
    and deoxygenating our oceans

What else can you tell me about human dependence on the oceans?

Healthy oceans are essential to human survival and prosperity, they:

  • Provide half the global oxygen people breathe
  • Provide the main source of animal protein for more than 2.6 billion people
  • Currently absorb about a third of global, human-created CO2 emissions
  • Are home to numerous species, such as mangroves and corals that protect low-lying coastlines from storms and support coastal economies
  • Are the most promising source of new medicines to combat cancer, pain and bacterial diseases

Why the GLORES acronym?

GLORES (pronounced "glories") will establish Global Ocean Refuges, or strongly protected marine areas, that are the “glories” of the oceans.

Who came up with the GLORES concept?

Dr. Elliott Norse, Marine Conservation Institute founder and chief scientist, is the main visionary behind the Global Ocean Refuge System. He worked closely with Marine Conservation Institute President Dr. Lance Morgan to create a strategic framework to turn his vision into a reality. Together, this dynamic team continues to lead the initiative. Biographies for both Dr. Norse and Dr. Morgan can be found on the GLORES website.

What level of involvement does Marine Conservation Institute have in GLORES?

Marine Conservation Institute developed and is leading this important endeavor. The organization is securing the funding and partnerships necessary to establish Global Ocean Refuges as synonymous with strong and effective marine reserves. Once GLORES is robust enough to proceed on its own, it will be managed by an alliance of conservation organizations that take on the governance and fundraising responsibilities. Partners, donors and many others are critical to GLORES’ success.

What kinds of qualifications does Marine Conservation Institute have to lead this effort?

Marine Conservation Institute has defined and shaped marine conservation since 1996. Its science team specializes in identifying the most important ocean ecosystems that need protection, while its policy experts work to secure lasting, strong protection for those areas. In addition, the organization prioritizes collaborating with other scientists, ocean advocates, businesspeople and government officials around the world.

The organization’s founder, Dr. Elliott Norse, wrote the most-cited book on marine conservation, held the world’s first scientific symposium on marine conservation and assembled the first college textbook on the science of marine conservation. Marine Conservation Institute helped to get President Clinton to issue his Executive Order on Marine Protected Areas in 2000 and played a key behind-the-scenes role in getting President George W. Bush to designate three huge no-take marine reserves in 2006 and 2009.

Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington D.C. For more information, please visit our official website.

What kind of partners do you work with?

The Global Ocean Refuge System is a partnership among scientists, ocean advocates, business people, the travel and tourism industry and government officials around the world. More information on GLORES’ early partners here.

I am interested in donating to GLORES. What should I do?

You can donate to this important initiative directly through the GLORES website. You can also contact our Development Director, Caro Dratva (650) 520-7080, or mail your contribution to our office at 4010 Stone Way North, Suite 210, Seattle WA 98103.


Paul Nicklen- GLORES Partner Photographer