Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), also commonly referred to as marine reserve areas or marine managed areas, exist worldwide having been established since the 1960s on tropical and temperate reefs. Despite the different names or types, their main purpose is to protect a sea area or zone from any human-caused disturbances such as over-harvesting of marine animals, use of destructive fishing practices or tourism development. They can also be zoned for specific uses, such as tourism (snorkelling, diving, etc.), scientific research, and conservation. All in all, MPAs act as a management tool for fisheries and the conservation of biodiversity.

Scientific research has affirmed the effectiveness of MPAs in:
improving ecological diversity
protecting coral reefs (which are an important habitat for most marine animals, especially juveniles)

MPAs are managed by the Federal government (Department of Marine Parks Malaysia or DMPM), State governments (Sabah and Sarawak government), and private companies in Malaysia.

The areas that are protected have proven to benefit marine biodiversity, helping to recover fish populations affected by overfishing. The establishment of protected areas is increasing around the world. Indeed, one of the strategic plans of the Convention on Biological Diversity is the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which state that at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas should be conserved effectively and equitably managed by 2020. Malaysia currently has 1.4 percent of MPAs; more must be done to meet international targets and standards.