4 May 2017 - Both the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 14 (Life below Water), feature specific targets for protected area designations, making area based management tools (ABMTs) like marine protected areas (MPAs) important to their achievement. MPAs also featured in recent discussions on a draft negotiating text for an agreement on the management of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).
Mediterranean countries have embarked since 1975, through the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, on a series of cooperative, coordinative and mutual assisted processes aimed at protecting the Mediterranean, conserving its biological diversity and combating pollution. The Mediterranean countries thus dedicated one of the Convention’s Protocols to the conservation of biodiversity, especially by developing MPAs. This protocol (SPA/BD) enables the creation of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance, which include areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Over the last two years, MPAs have also taken center stage in international fora reflecting on progress towards these agreed global goals. For instance, The UN Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched the ‘Protected Planet Report 2016′ at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress (WCC). The report finds that MPAs cover 4.12% (14.9 million km2) of the global ocean and 10.2% of coastal and marine areas under national jurisdiction. Since 2014, marine protected area coverage in areas under national jurisdiction increased by 1.8%. In areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) (generally >200 nautical miles), MPAs make up only 0.25% of total ABNJ area, showing no change since 2014. Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, featured in the CBD Strategic Plan, aims to conserve 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. At the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, members approved the target of 30% to be set aside in “highly protected MPAs and OECMs” by 2030.
The Mediterranean has also played its part in this trend. To date,there are 1,231 MPAs and OECMs (Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures) in the Mediterranean Sea, covering 179,798 km2, which places a surface of 7.14% through a large variety of conservation designations, with national designations accounting for only 1.6% and no-go, no-take or no-fishing zones for 0.04%. Over 72.77% of the surface covered is located in the Western Mediterranean. Designations cover 9.79% of European waters mostly due to the Natura 2000 at sea network, which rarely affords strict restrictive measures.