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The manta ray, shown here, is one of at least 37 species of sharks and rays that have been documented in the archipelago. Pelagic Life

By Matt Rand

For the health of the ocean and all who depend on it, this is big news: In November, Mexico became the latest nation to create a large, fully protected marine reserve.

The Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, the country's largest marine protected area, is larger than the state of New York and protects 57,176 square miles (148,087 square kilometers) from fishing and other extractive activities.

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Rebecca Gruby, CC BY-ND

By Rebecca Gruby, Lisa Campbell, Luke Fairbanks and Noella Gray

There is growing concern that the world's oceans are in crisis because of climate change, overfishing, pollution and other stresses. One response is creating marine protected areas, or ocean parks, to conserve sea life and key habitats that support it, such as coral reefs.

In 2000, marine protected areas covered just 0.7 percent of the world's oceans. Today 6.4 percent of the oceans are protected—about 9 million square miles. In 2010, 196 countries set a goal of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020.

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