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Marine Science



Government failing on marine commitments for Mediterranean. A new WWF report shows that Mediterranean countries are failing on their global commitment to protect at least 10% of marine and coastal areas, and to stop ongoing biodiversity loss in the region. Today, only 2.48% of the Mediterranean Sea is protected under Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with management plans.

WWF says: “This is a far cry from the minimum target of 10% by 2020 set in both UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 and Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi target 11, let alone the 30% that WWF is calling for. The Mediterranean result is on par with the EU marine area as a whole, only 1.8% of which is covered by management plans for protection, as a WWF report revealed earlier this year.

“The latest WWF assessment shows that in the last decade, nearly all Mediterranean countries have gravely underperformed in their legal duty to create an adequate network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020. Evidence shows that such a network would strongly contribute to restoring marine assets currently estimated to generate USD $5.6 trillion [for the region each year, mainly through fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. The findings align with the recent WWF assessment of all EU marine protected areas, which found 19 of 23 marine EU Member States falling behind on developing management plans for their MPAs.

“Recurring delays and failures by almost all Mediterranean countries to move from ‘Paper Parks’ – that is, areas protected in name but with little real management – to well-managed protected areas at sea are highlighted. For instance, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, and Spain have designated a considerable amount of their marine areas for protection, but management measures are still limited to a few small areas or are inadequate to protect biodiversity. “

Janica Borg, Marine Protection and Spatial Planning Policy Coordinator at the WWF European Policy Office said:

“The recurring inaction from governments to restore and protect marine biodiversity is critically undermining our ocean’s capacity to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis and to support a sustainable blue economy. Mediterranean Member States must stand by their commitments and make effective marine biodiversity protection a top political priority. The areas intended for protection must urgently have management plans put in place, and EU leaders must agree to effectively protect at least 30% of all European marine and coastal areas by 2030.”

In addition to SDG 14 and the CBD, the Barcelona Convention, in place since 1976, aims to prevent and manage the risks of pollution and to protect the valuable marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea. Four decades later, WWF’s report shows that the Convention and its Contracting Parties – which includes EU governments – are failing their mandate and leaving the Mediterranean not only largely unprotected, but overexploited by industries such as oil and gas, which remain on a trajectory for continued growth.

This week, Mediterranean governments, as Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, will meet in Naples, Italy, to discuss their progress and agree on new post-2020 actions to halt and revert the loss of biodiversity. WWF calls on these leaders to strongly increase investments and resources to restore the Mediterranean’s unique marine habitats and species threatened by human overexploitation and climate change. Leadership in one of the world’s most polluted seas can spark the whole EU to stand up for marine ecosystems and biodiversity, steering the course to commit to achieving at least 30% effective protection for marine and coastal areas by 2030.