There is an urgent need to halt and reverse loss of mangroves and seagrass to protect and increase the ecosystem services they provide to coastal communities, such as enhancing coastal resilience and contributing to climate stability.1,2 Ambitious targets for their recovery can inspire public and private investment in conservation,3 but the expected outcomes of different protection and restoration strategies are unclear. We estimated potential recovery of mangroves and seagrass through gains in ecosystem extent to the year 2070 under a range of protection and restoration strategies implemented until the year 2050. Under a protection-only scenario, the current trajectories of net mangrove loss slowed, and a minor net gain in global seagrass extent (∼1%) was estimated. Protection alone is therefore unlikely to drive sufficient recovery. However, if action is taken to both protect and restore, net gains of up to 5% and 35% of mangroves and seagrasses, respectively, could be achieved by 2050. Further, protection and restoration can be complementary, as protection prevents losses that would otherwise occur post-2050, highlighting the importance of implementing protection measures. Our findings provide the scientific evidence required for setting strategic and ambitious targets to inspire significant global investment and effort in mangrove and seagrass conservation.