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Marine Protected Areas progress in the Mediterranean but efforts must be boosted.

Today, 7.14% (179,798 km2) of the Mediterranean Sea is placed under a protection status, this is what emerges from the first analyzes to report on the 2016 status of the Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas – that will contribute to a report published every four years by MedPAN and RAC / SPA in collaboration with many partners. This report is based on the 2016 update of MAPAMED[1], the database of sites of interest for the conservation of the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea.

These first analyses report 1,231 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Other Spatial Conservation Measures (OECMs)[2] in the Mediterranean, including 186 MPAs of national designations (1.6%) and 898 Natura 2000 sites at sea (2.37% ). The surface of ​​MPAs of national status and Natura 2000 sites increased by 1.8% compared with the last Mediterranean MPA Status published in 2012 with the designation of 6 new MPAs of national status (21 827 km2 added) and 391 Natura 2000 sites (34 458 km2 added). For the first time in the Mediterranean, the status will also reveal a cumulative area of ​​zone where regulation is the strictest (in relation to access, harvesting or fishing that are legally prohibited there). It is of 0.04%, which is extremely low insofar as science has proved the essential character of these areas in the effectiveness of MPAs. (See "The Science of Marine Reserves" Mediterranean edition published by PISCO at the end of 2016 -)

Progress in protecting the Mediterranean marine environment is therefore significant, but many challenges remain.
Almost all of the area under protection (90%) is located in European waters and the area under protection is still mainly coastal with 4.51% of the area over 12 miles under protection status. Looking at the qualitative aspects of the current system of MPAs and OECMs, many sites are not actually implemented and there are no regulations in place to curb existing pressures or enough means to enforce them. Little is also known about the management measures in place and if they are effective at maintaining or restoring the biodiversity they aim to protect. It appears that the human and financial means allocated to management are much too low thereby compromising successful conservation.

To achieve the objective of protecting 10% of the Mediterranean by 2020 (Aichi Objective 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which commits all Mediterranean countries), in addition to strengthening the management of existing sites, at least an additional 71,900 km2 (2.86% of the Mediterranean) will have to be placed under strong protection designations that also target currently under-represented characteristics.

Considering the high pressures exerted on the Mediterranean marine environment with growing trends, it is crystal clear that willingness to invest in marine conservation needs to be boosted up.

2% of no-go, no-take and no-fishing zones by 2020!
The participants of the Mediterranean MPA Forum, held at the end of 2016 in Tangiers, Morocco, highlighted these challenges and proposed solutions to address them. In particular, they underlined in the Tangier Declaration the need to strengthen efforts to effectively conserve at least 10% of the Mediterranean Sea by 2020 for the coastal areas and then for the open sea and the need to expand coverage and implementation of no-go, no-take and no-fishing zones within current or future MPAs at 2% of the surface of the Mediterranean sea, especially in the key functional areas.

The full report "2016 Status of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean" will be available during the first quarter of 2017 but the main results are already available. A brochure and a poster present them.

Medpan Article

[1]  The MAPAMED database lists in 2016 a greater variety of sites than in 2012 including sites designated before 2012. The 2016 version of MAPAMED records in addition to Marine Protected Areas (see definition below) : Ramsar sites linked to the sea, the Particularly Sensitive Sea Area of Bonifacio, the biosphere reserves and world heritage sites of UNESCO, the Fisheries Restricted Areas of GFCM.
[2] In the Mediterranean Sea, the generic term “Marine Protected Area” is understood as any marine and/or coastal area (including lagoons that are permanently linked to the sea) that has been put under protection generally by legal means for the conservation of natural habitats, species or specific natural features as its prime purpose. It thus includes a wide range of areas, established under various designations, at various levels (subnational, national, regional or even international), and providing various degrees of protection.

As for the term Other Effective area based Conservation Measures (OECMs), it originates from the CBD to also indicate protection designations, although there is no clear international guidance as to how it applies. Until the criteria are defined, the present analysis makes a sketchy use of it to refer to regional and international designations that seem to afford a lesser degree of protection.

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