Since 1991, the extent of protected areas in the Arctic has increased, although marine areas remain poorly represented.

Between 1991 and 2010, the extent of the Arctic that has some form of protected status doubled from 5.6% to 11%. There are now 1,127 protected areas covering 3.5 million km2 of the Arctic. 40% of these areas have a coastal component but it is not possible at present to determine the extent to which they incorporate the adjacent marine environment. With rapid climate change and the emerging potential for multiple human impacts in the Arctic, there is a pressing need to assess the effectiveness of current terrestrial protected systems as a conservation tool. In the marine environment, where there are far fewer protected areas, the urgent need is for the identification and protection of biologically important marine areas.