Eleven corals in the Mediterranean may be protected this week

New corals have not been added to the list of protected species since the Barcelona Convention was signed nearly 20 years ago

Press Release Date: December 2, 2013

Location: Madrid


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All Mediterranean countries will be meeting in Istanbul for the 18th COP to the Barcelona Convention to strengthen the protection of the marine and coastal environment. A number of decisions are set to be adopted at the meeting that are essential, among other things, to improving the protection status of deep-sea corals, in particular black and cold-water corals. Seamounts, submarine canyons and mud volcanoes will also benefit if there is political consensus to approve what is known as the “Dark Habitats Action Plan”.

This week we’ll see whether the Mediterranean countries are really committed to all of the political events to fulfil their international commitments”, declared Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Given the current situation, any improvement to the protection of the Mediterranean is a step forward. However, our elected representatives must not forget that there is still a lot of work to do, a lot more than has been done in recent decades. To achieve the target of effectively protecting 10% of the Mediterranean by 2020 is a big challenge, because to date we have only achieved 4.5%”. 

Over the last two years, Oceana has followed and actively participated in the various preparatory meetings of the COP to help improve the protection of deep-sea habitats and species and convince the Mediterranean countries that this is an urgent requirement. Regarding the “Dark Habitats Action Plan”, Ocean was part of the team of scientists who drafted it and, among other things, it aims to increase the number of marine protected areas that contain seamounts and submarine canyons. Both initiatives have already achieved a scientific consensus and now they only depend on the political decision of the COP to be finally approved.

The main reasons for protecting these ecosystems are the various, continuous threats they face such as destructive fishing methods, pollution and the rising sea temperature due to climate change.  

“Adopting the amendments to protect these corals is a crucial step because it means that the Convention is adapting to scientific advances and that the Parties acknowledge the need to strengthen the protection of deep-sea species”, declared Pilar Marín, marine scientist and coordinator of the MedNet project, and she added “Furthermore, it would be the first time that the Annexes have been changed to include deep-sea corals as “endangered or threatened” species, as the status of corals has not been amended since the Convention was signed almost 20 years ago”. 

The COP to the Barcelona Convention will be held between the 3rd and 6th of December in Istanbul (Turkey) and will bring together senior politicians from the ministries of the environment of the Mediterranean countries. This meeting is held every two years after various preparatory meetings, where the key decisions are prepared. This year, among other things, they also intend to make progress in the management of marine debris and in optimising the running of the Convention to ensure its economic viability.   It also aims to improve governance to ensure compliance with its Protocols.