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Long propagation delays of acoustic signals in underwater networks pose grand challenges in medium access control (MAC) protocol design, often significantly undermining network performance if not handled appropriately. In this paper, we propose a novel MAC protocol, called COntention based Parallel rEservation MAC (COPE-MAC) for underwater acoustic networks. In COPE-MAC, we introduce “parallel reservation” and “cyber carrier sensing” techniques. The first method improves communication efficiency, while the latter one can detect and avoid collisions by mapping a physical channel to a virtual one in the cyber space. The performance of the proposed protocol is evaluated via simulations. Experiment results show that COPE-MAC can significantly increase the overall network throughput, and is especially suitable for larger networks with long distances.