Oceana’s protection proposal MedNet, presented to South Mediterranean countries

Oceana has presented its MedNet proposal to create Marine Protected Areas at a meeting about Integrated Marine Policy organised by the European Commission in Beirut (Lebanon)

Press Release Date: November 10, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana has been invited by the European Commission’s IMP-Med project to present its proposal for a MedNet network of Marine Protected Areas for the countries on the Mediterranean Sea’s southern and eastern shores. The Oceana project would make it possible to protect more than 10% of the Mediterranean, the minimum established by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and it would represent huge progress in the waters which neighbour non-Community countries. The presentation took place yesterday at the 1st Regional Technical Workshop organised by the Commission in Beirut as part of the Integrated Marine Policy for the Mediterranean.

The participants included representatives of the authorities of the various countries at which this IMP-Med project is aimed: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, The Palestinian Authority, Syria and Tunisia.  Three main issues have been discussed during the meeting: marine protected areas, underwater cultural heritage and the contamination of offshore areas by gas and oil.

“The Mediterranean Sea has minimal protection and less than 4% has any form of legal protection” explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Participating in this project, which is headed by the European Commission, provides us with an excellent opportunity to stress the need to increase the area which is protected and to promote coordination between the EU and other coastal countries so that conservation measures are consistent and effective”.

The benefits of marine protected areas (MPA’s) have been accepted by researchers and economists throughout the world, so it is necessary to use all of the domestic and international means available to declare new areas. Oceana has conveyed to the participating countries the great importance of the Mediterranean, from an ecological perspective, and the places which should be protected.  Furthermore, it has emphasised the need to achieve a complete, consistent and ecologically representative network of MPA’s in this sea.

“The fact of being able to present MedNet to the authorities of these countries represents an open door to conservation in the most vulnerable area of the Mediterranean”, explains Pilar Marín, a marine scientist who coordinates the MedNet project. “One of the advantages of Oceana MedNet is that the areas most in need of protection have been identified, despite the huge lack of detailed biological information. Due to the current rate of destruction of sea resources and the constant threats, it is necessary to apply the precautionary principle before the damage becomes irreversible”.

Oceana MedNet was presented in February this year, but this is the first time it has been introduced outside the EU. This network of MPA’s, the first in the Mediterranean with specific locations, includes 100 places distributed across the basin and with a total area of over 200,000 km2. When added to the already existing MPA’s, this area would protect up to 12% of the Mediterranean, exceeding the minimum established by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Oceana MedNet areas are characteristically of a significant size, mainly located in open seas and are connected via the main ocean current systems.

The 1st IMP-Med Regional Technical Workshop, organised by the Directorate General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission and the European Agency for Cooperation and Development between the 8th and 9th of November, is part of the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy and it is designed to provide opportunities to the Mediterranean’s neighbouring countries and, using an integrated approach, assist the respective authorities in tackling the various issues associated with the marine area.

The main aim of the meeting about MPA’s was to illustrate the current level of protection of the Mediterranean Basin and to raise awareness among the participating countries of the importance and benefits of marine protected areas, not only encouraging them to declare new areas, but also showing them experiences in other parts of the Mediterranean.

Experts from other international organisations involved in the conservation of the Mediterranean such as MedPAN (Network of Managers of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean, France) and MedPO (WWF Mediterranean Programme, Italy) also participated in the meeting.

For more information: Oceana MedNet