Towards a coherent MPA network: protect the sea, connect the areas !

Organiser : RAC/SPA

Moderators: Imen MELIANE, 7 seas (Tunisia) & Giuseppe NOTARBARTOLO DI SCIARA, Tethys Research Institute (Italy)


7.14 % of the Mediterranean is covered by a large variety of conservation designations and 0.04 % by either no-go, no-take or no-fishing zones. 2.86 % of the Mediterranean would need to be placed under strong protection designations that also target currently under-represented features.. 


Session overview

According to the most recent assessment, the Mediterranean marine protected area (MPA) system counts presently 1,231 MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs); 7.14 % of the Mediterranean is covered by a large variety of conservation designations and 0.04 % by either no-go, no-take or no-fishing zones. Over 72.77% of the surface covered is located in the Western Mediterranean.

To reach the quantitative part of the Aichi Target 11 of 10%, an additional 71,900 km2 (2.86 % of the Mediterranean) would need to be placed under strong protection designations that also target currently under-represented features. Since 2012, 391 Natura 2000 sites were designated but just 6 MPAs of national status were established. The paucity of data still makes it difficult to assess ecological coherence. However there has been progress with the representativity of two habitats in particular: Posidonia meadows and Coralligenous habitats.


This workshop is intended to highlight, through some selected case studies, the progress made during the last years - since 2012 - to establish an ecological network of MPAs which is representative and connected in the Mediterranean Sea. Speakers will present examples of national efforts towards building up their domestic MPA networks based both on socio-economic and ecological criteria, and/or improving their representativity and connectivity. Innovative methodologies for establishing easy and reliable inventorying and monitoring programmes of species and habitats within Mediterranean MPAs will be also showcased, as well as the role of science, databases and GIS tools in reaching stakeholders and enabling sound decision making at every step of the process.


Beyond MPAs, OECMs should be considered when appreciating the region’s progress towards achieving Aichi target 11 by 2020, as this have been recognized by the Mediterranean 2020 MPA roadmap adopted by the Barcelona Convention (COP19) in February 2016.




► Recommendations of the session


1- 0.04% No-take zone (NTZ) is grossly inadequate, and the target of 10% protection is not enough; but what about the remaining 90%? We must strive to the Good Environmental Status also in the remaining portion of the sea, bearing in mind that MPAs are just one of the many conservation tools.


2- Planning and management of MPAs should be based on increased understanding of the ecological processes and on a wider range of ecosystems (water column, deep sea, etc.) across the entire Mediterranean, using the best available knowledge and expertise.


3- Despite all the ongoing efforts, there is a sense of urgency to act: we don’t have infinite time. Enforcement of regulations is essential, but the importance of the bottom-up perception of the need for MPAs should not be underestimated.




CASE STUDY 1: From science to communication in marine conservation: the booklet «The Science of Marine Protected Areas - Mediterranean version»

Speaker: Paolo GUIDETTI, Nice Sophia Antipolis University (France)
Science provided clear evidence on the effects of Marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean Sea. However, their potential is far to be fully understood at societal level. In the Booklet (resulting from a collegial work made by high-profiled scientists, managers, policy makers and NGOs’ members from the Mediterranean and USA), the best available scientific knowledge on Mediterranean MPAs is communicated in a more accessible format. The booklet is designed to be used by managers, government officials, scientists, teachers and the interested public, with the intent to support the establishment of further and effective MPAs in the Mediterranean region.


CASE STUDY 2: Networking Marine and Coastal Protected Areas in Northern Tunisia

SpeakerSaba GUELLOUZ, Protection and Coastal Planning Agency (APAL) (Tunisia)

In Tunisia, the coastal Protection and Development Agency updated in 2010 its programme for the creation of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPA), which now concerns 11 sites. Five of these sites are located in the north of the country: Tabarka, La Galite, Cap Negro, Sidi Ali Mekki and Zembra / Haouaria. The geographical configuration of the MCPAs in northern Tunisia, the small distance between them, favors networking and the delineation of linking zones that are very favorable to ensure their ecological connectivity and the viable functional maintenance of populations. The ultimate goal is to use the MCPA network to delineate large marine areas, sanctuaries that would be destined to be managed in relation to the fishing activity, in order to resolutely place it within a framework of dynamic sustainable development.


CASE STUDY 3: LIFE+ INDEMARES PROJECT: A breakthrough marine protection

Speaker: Elvira GARCÍA-BELLIDO CAPDEVILA, Division for Marine Protection, Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment (Spain)

Spain is one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of marine biodiversity. INDEMARES project’s main objective was learning about its natural and socio-economic values, as the best way for its conservation. For 6 years INDEMARES took up the challenge of increasing the knowledge of marine environment, assessing the relationship with socio-economic sectors, and raising civil society awareness of preserving it. As a result, INDEMARES has been a breakthrough marine protection in Spain: 8 million ha (8% of territorial waters) are added to an ecological network of MPAs, through 10 marine Sites of Community Interest, and 39 marine Special Protection Areas for birds.


CASE STUDY 4: Environmental monitoring of rocky seabeds in Mediterranean marine protected areas and surrounding zones

Speaker: Alexandre Roi GONZALEZ, Marine Biology Laboratory-University of Seville (Spain)

Science provided clear evidence on the effects of MaA methodology for the monitoring of marine hard bottoms is presented. Based on image analysis of target key species located in fixed points, it is an easy and reliable system for the surveillance of Marine Protected Areas and its adjacent zones. With the ability to easily compare the data from different areas, one of the main objectives is the establishment of a network of monitoring stations in the Mediterranean. Also, an additional tool for this methodology is presented: a Guide of environmental monitoring of rocky seabeds, with more than 130 detailed files of the main tolerant and sensitive species in the Mediterranean waters.


CASE STUDY 5: Regional databases: a key element for the development and assessment of ecologically coherent MPA networks

Speakers: Dhia GUEZGUEZ, RAC/SPA & Bruno MEOLA, MedPAN 

Over the last few years, regional databases on MPAs, such as MAPAMED in the Mediterranean or MAIA in the North-East Atlantic, have been developed to provide scientists, decision makers and other key players in marine conservation with the best possible region-wide information on existing MPA systems. When coupled with other datasets on habitats and species or economic/industrial activities, this information makes it possible to assess the progress made towards international conservation objectives such as Aichi target 11 and helps identify what is left to do to reach these objectives. This information thus contributes to drawing guidelines and recommendations for scientific research, marine spatial planning and MPA management.


CASE STUDY 6: Characterisation and evaluation of the MPA from the French Mediterranean coast: a database to estimate the effort of protection

Speaker: Alexandre MEINESZ, CNRS (FRE 3729) «ECOMERS» Université Nice Sophia Antipolis / Université Côte d’Azur (France)

In front of the French Mediterranean coast, there are 26 MPAs with regulations to limit catches and 38 co-managed areas without any fishing prohibition (including 36 Natura 2000 zones and two marine parks considered by the French State to be MPAs). Their statutes are very different (national park, nature reserve, fishing reserve). Their levels of legal protection range from banning all forms of fishing to prohibiting or regulating recreational fishing (spear fishing, angling). Finally, surveillance by the state maritime police is, in some MPAs, reinforced by sworn maritime guards. The database with a GIS is online (, it presents all these characteristics for each MPA, administrative geographical unit (department, region, coasts) and for each bathymetric slice (0 / -10m , -10 / -20m, -20 / -50m,> 50m). The database gives figures or protection rates for each administrative or bathymetric division as well as the quantitative evolution over time.