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He who hesitates is lost: Why conservation in the Mediterranean Sea is necessary and possible now


IES scientist S. Katsanevakis is co-author of an article published in Marine Policy that calls for urgent action to protect marine biodiversity and ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) calls for an ecologically representative network of marine protected areas (MPAs) that covers 10% of the Mediterranean surface by 2020. We are far from achieving this target, and Mediterranean Sea ecosystems are rapidly degrading. This article reviews Mediterranean conservation initiatives, the knowledge and data available for implementing an MPA network, and the potential for generating the political support and commitment needed for implementing such a network. It proposes an 8-step approach to marine spatial planning within ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in the Mediterranean region. It finds that there is enough information to move forward with ecosystem-based marine spatial management for conservation purposes using the EBSAs as a starting point, and that the time to do so is now.

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the world’s priority conservation areas, given its wealth of endemic species and habitat diversity and the increasing threats it faces from human activities. Effective and comprehensive marine resource management urgently needs to be implemented, especially for identified priority conservation areas and marine protected areas (MPAs).

EBSA Map. Source: Portman et al. (2013)

In 2012, the COP17 to the Barcelona Convention endorsed the EBSA Map, which identifies 11 priority areas of the Mediterranean Sea. MPA sites are currently being identified within these EBSAs, and should become the building blocks for the network of marine protected areas called for by the CBD. 21 countries border the Mediterranean Sea, making it a politically complex region. Most EBSAs cross the territorial waters of 3-5 Mediterranean countries, so transboundary action is often required. There are currently about 170 marine coastal protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea, accounting for 4.56% of the total sea-surface area. Neighbouring countries are expected to prepare national and transboundary governance and management systems to increase protection to 10% by 2020. The pan-Mediterranen planning proposed by this paper is hoped to generate the political support and commitment necessary for the implementation of a science-based and effective network of MPAs.

“…there is no justification for inaction. While further research will definitely provide new
insights on the pros and cons of different approaches, the time has come to act to systematically advance conservation in this important and unique region.”


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