Marine protected areas (MPAs) can be a powerful tool to protect, and possibly restore, the ability of ecosystems to provide benefits to people including food, oxygen, economic opportunities, recreation, and cultural value. However, heavy uses of the ocean are eroding these benefits, sometimes at alarming rates.
Globally, there are thousands of MPAs, though their collective area is small. There are many terms for MPAs, reflecting different levels of protection, history, governance, management authority, and more. MPAs can be generally defined as places in the sea designed to protect marine species and ecosystems, while sometimes allowing for sustainable uses of marine resources within their boundaries. An MPA can be 1) partially protected, where some uses are prohibited but some extractive activities are allowed and regulated, or 2) fully protected, where all extractive and destructive activities are forbidden, except as needed for scientific monitoring. Fully protected areas are also called no-take areas. A multiple-use area can combine partially and fully protected areas in different zones.
Full protection from extractive activities usually leads to much greater long-term ecological, economic, and social benefits than only partial or no protection. Emerging evidence suggests that large, fully protected areas can provide resilience to climate change and other environmental threats.
A MPA must have strong compliance and enforcement to successfully meet its goals. MPAs can be an effective tool for conservation and management, but they cannot address all threats to marine life. Parallel actions are needed to make fishing and aquaculture sustainable, address climate change and ocean acidification, and reduce pollution from plastics, nutrients, and chemicals.
In the Mediterranean there are more than 1000 designated MPAs that cover 6.5% of the Mediterranean Sea. Only 76 are fully protected and cover 0.04%. The number of designated MPAs increased almost 3 times over the past 15 years, but fully protected MPAs increased less rapidly. The vast majority of designated Mediterranean MPAs are weakly enforced or only parks on paper, because they are not implemented or not managed at all.
MPAs have proven to be an effective tool to protect and manage marine biodiversity, especially when they contain well-enforced, fully protected areas.
The recently published booklet The Science of Marine Protected Areas-Mediterranean Sea summarizes the best global scientific information on MPAs as well as scientific results from research in many MPAs around the Mediterranean. The conclusion is that small Mediterranean MPAs that are well-managed and well-enforced are effectively recovering resources, sustaining fisheries, improving livelihoods, and promoting a sustainable tourism model. Opportunity exists to build on these successes.
The Mediterranean region could benefit from much more protection in MPAs. Simply implementing and enforcing existing MPAs would be a good start. Expanding fully protected areas within existing MPAs could significantly enhance benefits. Establishing more functional networks of MPAS could greatly enhance the outcomes of individual MPAs. Continued public education, monitoring, and awareness of the changes facing the Mediterranean Sea will be essential for good results over the long term.
Distribution of 4000 copies in different languages (English, French, etc.)
Presentation to public arenas
Distribution of 2500 copies in English to stakeholders, managers and decision makers