More than 17,000 marine species across the globe remain largely unprotected, finds the first comprehensive assessment of protected areas coverage -- or lack thereof -- for marine life.
The survey, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that the United States, Canada, and Brazil are the nations with the most species whose ranges lie entirely outside of marine protected areas (MPAs).
Senior author James Watson, of the University of Queensland, told Discovery News that part of the challenge in the United States is that it is the country with the largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world. EEZs are areas of coastal water and seabed within a certain distance of a country's coastline, to which the country claims exclusive rights for fishing, drilling, and other economic activities.
Watson said that something like 13 percent of the planet's waters that fall within EEZs are tied to the United States.
He added: "The other part of the answer is that most states in the U.S. have primarily focused on fisheries management as a way to manage the oceans, rather than (establishing) MPAs."
Marine areas outside of the United States, Brazil, and Canada, such as parts of Australia, also have their conservation problems. The fish in the above image, for example, were spotted at the Ribbon Reefs, in the northern region of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Stephen Sautner, a spokesperson for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped prepare the new survey, told Discovery News: "Masses of schooling fish are important prey for many large predators."