Marine protected areas for better conservation management in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean supports a rich diversity of marine life, which is the focus of conservation efforts. An EU initiative investigated how best to designate and manage these sites for marine conservation.

Many endangered species live in the Mediterranean Sea, including some that are found nowhere else. The Mediterranean is almost totally enclosed, which exacerbates the problem of pollution, and its coastline is subject to unregulated development and overexploitation. Therefore, there is a great need for an enhanced set of marine protected areas (MPAs), where the natural environment can be conserved by restricting human activities.

With this in mind, the EU-funded DEMARN (Designation and management of marine reserve networks) project studied MPAs off the coast of Israel and other Mediterranean countries. Overall, the aim was to explore the spatial character and conservation needs of MPAs and identify challenges posed by both society and institutions that are often left out of the decision-making process.

Work began by examining policy frameworks for the establishment and management of proposed MPAs. To this effect, a typology of nature reserve design and management for Israeli terrestrial and marine reserves in the territorial waters of countries along the Mediterranean reserves was developed.

Project partners analysed two decision-support methods that can address institutional challenges in the Mediterranean. A case study was conducted at the Rosh HaNikra Protected Area, which is a small reserve off the Israeli coast that is seeking to expand. Results from the two methods were then compared to an actual management plan arrived at without employing decision support tools (DSTs).

Overall findings show that employing DSTs is vital when planning MPAs, and social factors should be included in their use. In addition, zoning of MPAs improves marine conservation opportunities while allowing more human activities.

DEMARN is particularly important for the seas around Europe, which face increasing exploitation and development. It will help support decision making about where efforts and finances should be directed. This will encourage successful ecosystem management and integrated coastal zone management for marine reserves.

last modification: 2016-06-13 13:47:16

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