In recent years we have witnessed the growing importance of marine issues, both in the scientific and political field but at the same time, the effects of overfishing, pollution and especially acidification of the oceans are becoming more and more worrisome.
The Mediterranean Sea due to its enclosed situation suffers most from the effects of these threats. However, this Regional Sea is considered to be one of the world’s priority ecoregions and is one of the major marine and coastal biodiversity hotspots, hosting almost 20% of global marine biodiversity while representing less than 1% of the global surface.
At the recent 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC3), it was revealed that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) now cover 2.8% of the global ocean according to an official map provided by the World Database on Protected Areas, run by IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The good news for the Mediterranean region is that its average is a little bit higher, about 4.6 %. Despite the serious financial, economic and political crises and uncertainties faced by most Mediterranean countries, policy makers at all levels have shown that they are firmly committed to creating new MPAs and supporting existing sites within the common framework of governance in the region, the Barcelona Convention.
From the Mediterranean side, we would like to share with our colleagues across the world the main lessons learned over the last few years. A combination of initiatives at regional and national level jointly promoted by the network of MPA managers in the Mediterranean (MedPAN), along with various international and regional institutions such as RAC/SPA, ACCOBAMS, IUCN, WWF, MedWET and Oceana, have allowed us to disseminate best practices, facilitate dialogue and establish links between the main stakeholders.
The result of this cooperation is the Antalya Road Map approved at the 2012 Forum of MPAs in the Mediterranean where the MPA community reviewed the status of MPAs in the region and identified the actions needed to establish an ecological network of MPAs which is effectively and sustainably managed. The roadmap is intended to guide the Mediterranean region effort in making its MPA network conform to the 2020 Aichi targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Two other important bits of good news for the Mediterranean region coming from IMPAC3 were the announcement of negotiations for the creation of a trust fund for MPAs in the Mediterranean supported by Monaco, France and Tunisia; and the support announced by the LifeWeb Initiative to a project that aims to establish and strengthen an effective MPA network in Lebanon, particularly the Palm Islands MPA. The LifeWeb initiative will help to secure funds to develop this project, which started in 2010, through collaboration between the Ministry of Environment in Lebanon and IUCN, and which culminated in the 2012 Lebanon Marine Protected Areas Strategy.
Other highlights at IMPAC3 were the progress of Blue Carbon projects and studies in the Mediterranean that could help finance marine conservation and MPAs in some countries.However, there is still much to be done to achieve effective management in all the existing MPAs in the Mediterranean and worldwide in terms of coherence, connectivity and representativeness as well high seas and deep seas protection.
The new ideas and strong conviction shared at IMPAC3 will help us push the pace of establishing well-managed marine protected areas and mobilize the necessary financial resources.
Blog's article by: Alain Jeudy de Grissac