Three crucial issues we are working to address for the protection of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Mediterranean

Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPA) included in the List of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI List) may be subject to various short-term difficulties. It is necessary to foster cooperation to support SPAMIs and allow them to fully play their role as example and model for the protection and management of the natural heritage of the region. The recommendations listed below are mainly taken from the Post-2020 Regional Strategy for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas and other effective area-based conservation measures in the Mediterranean, adopted at COP 22 of the Barcelona Convention (7-10 December 2021, Antalya).

1 - Effective management of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance

A large proportion (45%) of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs) in the Mediterranean do not have management plans, and many of those that do have plans (almost 40% of Mediterranean MCPAs) only partially implement* them. However, an adequate management plan is the cornerstone of effective biodiversity conservation.

Management plans should be developed in collaboration with stakeholders and be an essential tool to provide clear guidance to managers and other stakeholders involved in the management of the MCPA. Therefore there is a need to support the development of practical and cost-effective management plans for MCPAs.

The lack of sufficient and sustainable financial means and the lack of institutional capacities and personnel have been identified in all Mediterranean countries as the main obstacles to an effective implementation of management actions. Sufficient and sustainable finance is therefore needed and regional capacity development programs need to be developed.

One of the main activities aimed at reducing threats and improving the effectiveness of MCPA management is to ensure the effective application of MCPA regulations and to promote compliance with the rules by MCPA users. Strengthening enforcement in MCPAs will require appropriate infrastructure and equipment, as well as agreed and clearly defined roles, responsibilities and authorities for all agencies responsible for enforcing MCPA regulations. As enforcement requires the support of bodies external to the MCPAs, it is essential to ensure that they are fully aware of the MCPA regulations and that guidelines on application procedures are available.

Finally, routine patrols and regular monitoring of illegal activities, ecosystem health, as well as socio-economic fallout, are essential for adaptive and effective management of MCPAs.

*Source: The Status of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean Sea: 2020 Edition.

2 - Governance

Effective governance establishes the general framework for the creation and management of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs). Governance is multi-faceted and takes into account not only which body or institution has authority over marine protected areas, but also who makes decisions and how those decisions are made.

Legal frameworks relating to MCPAs are established throughout the Mediterranean region; however a number of gaps have been identified. These shortcomings relate mainly to the procedures for applying national legislation and local regulations, the conflict of policies in the different governance sectors of the MCPAs inside and outside the MCPAs, and the weakness of legislation to promote and support participatory and delegated management of MCPAs (where the authority delegates management to another entity: NGO, private, etc.). Several countries also report a need for institutional reform, particularly to avoid duplication where different authorities are responsible for the country's protected areas.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that appropriate legislation and institutional frameworks are in place for the establishment and management of MCPAs and that, in line with best practice, governance models include equitable and effective participation of the stakeholders.

In the case where several stakeholders are responsible for the MCPAs, it is necessary to clarify the role and prerogatives of each, to strengthen coordination between the institutions, and to harmonize the sectorial policies which may directly or indirectly concern the MCPAs. On the other hand, it is important to ensure that the management of the MCPAs integrates the spatial management policies of the surrounding territories for greater coherence and coordination between the management bodies.

Finally, knowing that decisions can change in response to changing political, social and environmental conditions, it is important to ensure that planning and management frameworks are flexible enough to adapt to these changes, without hindering the objectives pursued by the AMCP.

3 - Exchange of experiences and capacity building

The lack of institutional capacity and personnel is one of the main obstacles to an effective implementation of the management plan for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs) in the Mediterranean.

Capacity building should focus on:

    • development of individual capacities;
    • institutional capacity development, including through institutional restructuring based on governance assessments, and through the development of sustainable financing to support effective planning and management of MPAs; and
    • strengthening the cohesion of the MCPA system.

It is recommended that countries undertake the necessary actions to strengthen their capacities for effective planning, implementation and adaptive management of MCPAs, by carrying out prior assessments to identify needs and identifying opportunities for financing capacity building actions.