governance, med, boat

Governance of the Mediterranean Sea

Improving the governance of the Mediterranean Sea is a priority for conservation and sustainable development

For political and geophysical reasons, most Mediterranean states have not declared Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) beyond their territorial seas. Should all Mediterranean States declare their EEZs, the entire Mediterranean would be covered with EEZs, and the high seas would disappear. The Mediterranean comes under the high-seas regime by accident, as the areas covered by the high sea could fall under national jurisdiction.

The two following consequences can be established:

  1. More than 80% of the semi-enclosed sea falls under the high-seas regime. In the high seas, the principle of freedom of the seas remains valid, although this does not mean ships are freed of obligations. The law applied to them is the law of their Flag's State. Implementing international agreements is a challenge in the high seas, whether at regional or global level. The high-seas regime creates a gap in the governance of the Mediterranean.
  2. Some Mediterranean countries have recently undertaken national initiatives to extend their jurisdiction in specific areas, for example fishing or ecological competence. If such moves continue, the entire Mediterranean will be covered by national maritime zones (sui generi EEZ), lacking coordination and affecting the integrity of a Mediterranean conservation regime.

The Mediterranean Sea represents an interesting and stimulating case for strengthening governance and international law in relation to the oceans. The Mediterranean experience brings support to global discussions regarding the means of achieving the goals set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to establish effectively managed networks of marine protected areas consistent with international law and based on scientific data, by 2012. Specially protected areas of Mediterranean Importance, which can be inscribed on all Mediterranean waters, according to the Protocol of the Barcelona Convention on Specially Protected Areas and Biodiversity in the Mediterranean, represent one of the most important tools for conserving and managing the Mediterranean Sea and should therefore be supported.

Since 2003, the Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation has been putting in place a mechanism to look at ways of improving the governance of the Mediterranean. A working group, composed of top experts, lawyers and ecologists, and representatives from international organizations, such as the MAP (RAC/SPA), the GFCM and ACCOBAMS, meets on a regular basis to discuss important topics of governance. Their conclusions are relayed directly to the ministries of the Mediterranean countries. 

At its Barcelona Congress, IUCN adopted a motion to support and strengthen this process.

For further information, please contact François Simard.