United Nations
The Science of Marine Protected Areas - Mediterranean Sea
by Ecomers Lab., University of Nice Sophia Antipolis & CNRS (Scientific community)
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.
Progress reports
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Community or Locally Managed Marine Areas
  • Integrated Coastal Management
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Compliance, monitoring and enforcement
  • Reduction and elimination fishing practices and gear that destroy/degrade marine habitat
  • Science-based fisheries management plans
  • Ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF)
  • Eco-labelling, traceability, certification programmes
  • Market-based instruments (Individually Traded Quotas, Vessel Day Schemes, etc.)
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
  • No take marine protected area
  • Marine protected area with partial protection
  • Multiple use marine protected area
  • Locally or community managed marine areas
  • MPA management and/or enforcement
By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
Type of commitment
  • Removal or reduction of harmful fisheries subsidies
Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
Type of commitment
  • Legal/policy/institutional measures
  • Access to market-based instruments
  • Access to coastal fishing grounds
  • Access and capacity building for eco-labelling and traceability systems
  • Community empowerment for fisheries management
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
  • Activities to raise awareness of the comprehensive legal and policy framework for the sustainable development of oceans and seas, in particular UNCLOS, its Implementing Agreements and other relevant ocean-related instruments and promote their effective im
  • Strengthening ocean governance, for example through the development of a national ocean policy or regional ocean policy
December 2018
Distribution of 4000 copies in different languages (English, French, etc.)
December 2018
Presentation to public arenas
January 2018
Distribution of 2500 copies in English to stakeholders, managers and decision makers
In-kind contribution
Coordination of various translations
Staff / Technical expertise
Fund raising
Basic information
Time-frame: 2017 June - 2018 December
PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) - Scientific Community
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Small-scale fishermen, tourism sector, ecoturism, diving, conservation scientists, policy makers, MPA managers
Contact information
Paolo Guidetti, Prof., Lab. Director, guidetti@unice.fr, +33 (0)492076865
Nice, France
Other SDGs
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