The number of MPAs has increased sharply, from just 118 in 1970 to well over 6,300 today. This growth in numbers has also been accompanied by a voluminous growth in the academic literature on the theme, with writers employing ecologic, economic and governance lenses (or a combination thereof) to both support the case for MPA creation, and to evaluate just how successfully (or not) existing MPAs match up to their promises. Research suggests effective management of such protected areas is vital if desired outcomes are to be achieved within the allotted time period. This Special Feature on MPAs therefore seeks to address two key questions derived from the management effectiveness framework of Hockings and others (2000), namely: ‘How appropriate are the management systems and processes in place?’ and ‘Were the desired Objectives achieved—and if so, why?’ Fourteen articles, drawing on different disciplinary perspectives relating to MPA experiences from across the globe, offers insights into these questions by considering, inter alia, how: are MPA sites selected?; is ‘buy-in’ to the process from the various stakeholders achieved?; are these stakeholder’s views reflected in the management systems that evolve?, and what monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are in place? Bringing these perspectives and approaches together through the medium of this Special Feature is thus intended to further our understanding of the different issues that may confront both planners and managers of Marine Protected Areas.