Major challenges for the Mediterranean MPA network

Most Mediterranean countries have committed themselves, under the Barcelona Convention and its ASP / DB Protocol, to contribute to the objective of the CBD to establish, by 2012, national and regional systems of full protected areas, which are well managed and ecologically representative, covering at least 10% of the oceans. However, given the difficulties of achieving these goals the same objective has been renewed to 2020 and officially recorded by the COP for the CBD in Nagoya (2010) and by the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention (2012).

To get there, the following points will need to be addressed:

  • Strengthen the synergies between all the stakeholders
  • Make the current network of MPAs in the Mediterranean more representative and coherent
  • Manage effectively and more efficiently the existing Mediterranean MPAs
  • Ensure the sustainability and financial resources of MPAs
  • Highlight the exemplary and innovative role of the MPA network

Strengthen the synergies between all the stakeholders:

To achieve the CBD objectives (an effective protection of at least 10% of the Mediterranean) all the stakeholders (national, institutional decision makers, NGOs, scientists, MPA managers and the private sector players) must renew and strengthen their commitment and also develop synergies through an economy of scale perspective. 

To make the current network of MPAs in the Mediterranean more representative and coherent:

The current network of MPAs is not representative of all the habitats and ecosystems. Currently, deep-sea ecosystems and the creation of MPAs on the high seas are growing in importance. Many MPAs in the Mediterranean are also ecologically isolated (see Status of MPAs 2008 and 2012). Therefore, all the MPAs which are established in the Mediterranean cannot be defined as an ecological network, but as an initial system from which a coherent network should be established. Thus, an ecosystematic approach and gap analysis must be reinforced to select, nominate and manage future MPAs. In this context, the major issue for European countries is to develop the Natura 2000 network at sea. Consolidating the effective management of existing MPAs and the creation of new MPAs are important challenges for the countries in the South and East Mediterranean. Through marine spatial planning, a certain amount of caution is needed for the development of extractive industries (oil, gas) which can contribute to affect the long-term coherence of the ecological network of MPAs.

Manage effectively and more efficiently the existing Mediterranean MPAs:

Even if some progress has been made since 2008, many MPAs are not adequately managed and can be defined as "MPAs on paper" (over half of MPAs still do not have a management plan) . The socio-economic aspects must increasingly be taken into account for an effective management. Human and financial resources are too low to ensure even a very minimal management in a majority of sites (monitoring, surveillance, law enforcement). Thus, the involvement of managers in taking into account an ecosystematic approach is important, but reinforcing the control, management and resources (human, financial) are even more vital for the protection, management practices and pressures in the field.

Ensure the sustainability and financial resources of MPAs:

It is particularly important to develop funding mechanisms for the management of MPAs especially in the current period of economic crisis and budget cuts in the Environment sector. Supporting and developing local, national and regional initiatives in order to put in place effective long term funding mechanisms is now vital. It is important to make an assessment of the socio-economic benefits of MPAs to convince policymakers in the coming years to increase their support for MPAs.

Highlight the exemplary and innovative role of the MPA network:

The MPAs, but also fishermen are more than ever becoming lookouts for global climate changes and its repercussions. Thus, the value of a MPA network across the Mediterranean over a long period of time is vital (to check its resilience, coastal erosion,...). The MPAs can also be used as places to innovate management techniques or develop sustainable socio-economic activities (clean boats, reducing the impacts, ecosystem resilience, measuring ecosystem services, blue economy, ecotourism ...). 

Objective of the CBD

"protect, by 2020, at least 10% of coastal and marine areas with national and regional systems of Marine Protected Areas that are comprehensive, effectively managed and ecologically representative."