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Better protecting biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea


The 2016 Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas Forum, held in Tangiers from 28th November to 2nd December, acknowledged that progress had been made but insisted on the need for more effort. A more efficient interface between the political and scientific communities might help.

Porquerolles Island (photo : Plan Bleu)
Porquerolles Island (photo : Plan Bleu)
"Marine protected areas are everyone's concern," was the message to the dedicated MPA Forum in Tangiers. The Mediterranean Sea is home to between 7% and 9% of the world's marine species but is under pressure from many sources including pollution, resource depletion and climate change, not to mention the impact of invasive species.

The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity fixed the objective of protecting 10% of the world's oceans by 2020, by means of marine protected areas located at sea or in coastal zones. Today, 7% of the Mediterranean Sea, 179,798 sq. km have been placed under protection, with 1231 marine protected areas and other conservation spaces. More than 100 future sites have either been identified or are underway in 12 countries. 

Reinforcing exchanges between scientists and area managers

So, even though the goal set by the Convention has largely been met in quantitative terms, in qualitative terms it's a different story, as the 300 participants at the Tangiers Forum, area managers, scientists and economic and institutional stakeholders reported. In fact, only 0.04% of the Mediterranean Sea is totally protected. Many sites are not properly regulated and the resources put at their disposal are not always appropriate. Despite undeniable progress, the scientific and management aspects remain largely disconnected from each other. Too much scientific research is unrelated to the areas' management needs and the research that could be pertinent is not made available to the area managers and monitoring networks, whose work often lacks any solid scientific basis.

Hence the need to reinforce the interface between science and politics, a theme taken up at a special workshop at the Forum organized by the Plan Bleu and supported by the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) and the MedPAN. Organized as part of the UNEP/MAP's implementation of an ecosystemic approach to achieving a good environmental standard in the Mediterranean Sea and along its coasts, the workshop attracted around 50 participants from a dozen countries.

"The aim was to reinforce and maintain the measures put in place over the past few years," says the Plan Bleu's Antoine Lafitte, "since the marine protected areas are not only reservoirs for biodiversity but also zones for scientific experiments on the human and social levels." Among the 33 measures updating the marine protected areas roadmap set out in the Tangiers declaration, one of the most prominent is the need to "reinforce, by all available means, the scientific-political interface." 

Christiane Navas, NICE

Thursday, December 22nd 2016

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