||While the global network of marine protected areas (MPAs) has recently been evaluated in the light of bio-geographic targets, there has been no attempt to evaluate the relative conservation efforts made by the different nations with regards to their level of socio-economic development. Using information mostly gathered from the world database on protected areas (WDPA), this paper gives a comparative assessment of MPA progress in countries from different economic categories, ranging from advanced economies to least developed countries (LDCs). Potentially explanatory socio-economic and environmental factors, such as fishing activity and existence of vulnerable marine ecosystems, for variability between nations in the level of MPA implementation are also explored. Existing MPA databases demonstrate a clear gap between developed and developing nations in MPA establishment, with advanced economies accounting for two thirds of the global MPA network. Patterns of MPA use, however, remain extremely heterogeneous between countries within each development group. International agreements on marine conservation, above and beyond the influence of country socioeconomic and environmental profiles, are identified as a stimulating factor to MPA implementation. The level dependence on marine resource extraction appears to impede MPA implementation, though the relationship is not statistically significant due to large heterogeneity among countries. Leading developed nations increasingly use MPAs to designate integrated and adaptive management areas, and implementation of large “no-take” reserves in relatively-pristine overseas areas continues to accelerate. These analyses highlight certain limitations regarding our ability to assess the true conservation effectiveness of the existing global MPA network and the need for improved indicators of MPA restrictions and management efforts.