Protecting the Ocean's Vital Places

Pristine Seas

Since 2008, Pristine Seas has helped establish 27 of the largest marine protected areas in the world, covering a total area of 6.6 million square kilometers — more than twice the size of India.

Inspiring some of the largest marine reserves in the world.

Without the ocean, life would be impossible. It provides food, livelihoods for billions of people, and regulates the climate. But the ocean is under threat from overfishing, global warming and pollution.

Yet today, only 8% of the ocean is somehow protected – and less than 3% is fully protected from fishing and other damaging activities.

Pristine Seas works with local communities, Indigenous Peoples, government and partners to protect our ocean, but also areas that have been somehow degraded by human activities, so they can bounce back. Marine life thrives in these marine protected areas and provides multiple benefits to people, from food and coastal protection to jobs and economic revenue.

Expeditions completed around the world
6.6 million square kilometers protected
200 +
Scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals
Marine reserves created

Where we work

Since 2008, Pristine Seas has carried out 44 expeditions to over 30 places, 27 of which have since been protected, covering a total area of more than 6.6 million square kilometers.

Map by Sam Guilford, NGS Staff

The Global Expedition

In 2023, National Geographic Pristine Seas launched a bold new conservation effort: The Global Expedition. The Pristine Seas team of scientists, policy experts, and filmmakers, will spend the next five years exploring the tropical Pacific aboard the M/V Argo, a 130-foot customized research vessel and media center, with the goal of supporting communities and governments in their efforts to protect the ocean. The Argo is Pristine Seas’ modern-day equivalent of Jacques Cousteau’s famous ship Calypso, but with an ocean conservation purpose.

You can follow the Argo live @natgeopristineseas on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Threads!

Field Notes

Explore updates from the field from the Pristine Seas team.

A closer look

Our team of scientists, filmmakers and policy experts have traveled across the ocean — from the poles to the tropics — to inspire the creation of marine protected areas. Take a closer look at some success stories from around the world.

Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha is a remote group of islands in the South Atlantic with an irreplaceable population of seabirds and a unique marine ecosystem. In 2020, the U.K. government and the people of Tristan da Cunha made a visionary declaration to create the Atlantic’s largest marine reserve.

Juan Fernández Archipelago

Six hundred kilometers off the coast of Chile lies the Juan Fernández Archipelago. We worked with the local community to support their proposal to create the largest marine park of the South American continent, protecting its waters from industrial fishing and benefiting tourism and local fishing.

Revillagigedo Islands

In partnership with Mares Mexicanos, we conducted an expedition to the Revillagigedo archipelago, “the Galapágos of Mexico,” home to extraordinary life, including sharks, manta rays and whales. A year later, the government of Mexico created and expanded the island’s existing MPA.


Niue, a raised coral atoll, is an island country in the South Pacific, home to an incredible shark refuge of grey reef sharks, a globally threatened species. In 2017, the government of Niue announced the creation of a large-scale marine protected area of 127,000 square kilometers.

Scientific research

Pristine Seas team members have collectively published more than 200 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals ranging from Nature, Science Advances, PLOS One and more.

Latest stories

Our impact is often featured in the news. Here are some of the most recent stories about the work the Pristine Seas team is doing around the world.

Leveraging world-class expertise

Pristine Seas is made up of a unique team of scientists, conservationists, filmmakers, and communication and policy experts working together to help protect the world’s ocean.


National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Executive Director, Pristine Seas

Enric Sala

Enric Sala is a former university professor who saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life, and quit academia in 2008 to become a full-time conservationist as National Geographic Explorer in Residence. He founded and leads National Geographic Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, media, economics and policy – working with local communities, Indigenous Peoples and governments to protect vital places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 26 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of over 6.5 million square km. Enric has received numerous awards, including 2008 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, 2013 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award, 2018 Heinz Award in Public Policy, National Geographic Hubbard Medal, Albert I Grand Medal, and Officer of the Order of San Carlos of Colombia. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

With support from




Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic Fund, Don Quixote Foundation, Inclusive Capital Partners Foundation, The Campbell Foundation, Waitt Foundation, Oracle, Dutch Postcode Lottery, LGT Venture Philanthropy, Philip Stephenson Foundation, Walmart Foundation, The Heinz Family Foundation, Beagle Foundation, Serventi Family Foundation, and other individual donors.


Allison Bennington, Brook Foundation, Jean and Steve Case, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, DAVIDOFF Cool Water, Roger and Rosemary Enrico, Helmsley Charitable Trust, Google, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Vicki and Roger Sant, and other individual donors.

Photo credits (from top of page): Manu San Félix, Ossie Michelin, SerrNovik/Getty/iStockphoto, Manu San Félix, Enric Sala, Ossie Michelin, Enric Sala (2)

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