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World Heritage
Marine Programme

4 focus areas

Our core task: ensuring the long-term conservation of World Heritage marine sites through state of conservation reporting.
Building a network of World Heritage marine site managers who share management solutions and best practices across 49 sites.
Training site managers to use ecosystem-based marine spatial planning as a tool to optimize marine World Heritage site conservation.
Exploring the potential of the 1972 World Heritage Convention in the High Seas, an area covering nearly 60% of our ocean.

Ensuring conservation
of World Heritage marine sites

We provide essential support – based on scientific data and analysis – to the World Heritage Committee and national governments, so they can monitor and evaluate the state of conservation in World Heritage marine sites.

The Committee uses our annual State of Conservation Reports as the basis for its decisions. Governments use our reports to guide their conservation work on the ground. Government agencies, communities, NGOs and businesses that are working on conservation in the sites use this data and the Committee’s decisions to advance their work.


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State of

Explore 40 years of State of Conservation reports and decisions for World Heritage Marine sites

Marine World Heritage



2019 | 2018 | 2017 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

World Heritage
papers #45

The Future of the World Heritage Convention for Marine Conservation

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Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Coral Reefs

© The Ocean Agency, XL Catlin Seaview Survey, Christophe Bailhache

Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Coral Reefs
A First Global Scientific Assessment
Nearly half of all World Heritage properties containing coral reefs experienced bleaching stress more than twice per decade during 1985-2013. Over 70% has been exposed to severe heat stress during the past three years with coral mortality likely to be the worse in history. This assessment predicts that all properties will experience annual severe bleaching and thus cease to host functioning coral reef systems, by the end of the century unless CO2 emissions are reduce.

Building a global network of site managers

We provide networking, capacity building and cross-site learning opportunities through the World Heritage Marine Site Managers Network so that our site managers can continuously improve their management practice.

Site managers meet in person at our global conferences every three years, and share best practices and other resources on our dedicated site managers network website. Sites with biodiversity connectivity have made formal linkages through the network to safeguard migratory species recognized as of global importance to humanity.

Best Practice Guide

Our Best Practice Guide for site managers shares the marine spatial planning methodology and provides examples of its application in World Heritage marine sites
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Connecting 49 marine sites
in 37 countries

Marine World Heritage


UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme takes you on a journey to three exceptional World Heritage marine sites.
Narrated by Giselle Bündchen, UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Environment

Exploring the World Heritage
Convention for High Seas conservation

We are actively exploring how the world’s most visible and nearly universally ratified Convention might be applied to the high seas.

Image courtesy of the NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. 

World Heritage in the High Seas: 
An Idea Whose Time Has Come

The Report Appendices
French version available here

Exploring the
World Heritage Convention
for High Seas conservation


Launching report 
at the edge of
the Sargasso Sea


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In partnership with

Main partners to the
World Heritage
Marine Programme

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World Heritage Sites (49)
Decisions (2)
Show 42COM 5A
Show 39COM 7B.8