Marine Protected Areas

Compared to other regions of the world and considering its small dimension (less than 1% of the worlds ocean area), our sea - Mare nostrum – contains 7% of all known marine species and is inhabited by unique and diverse forms of life. The Mediterranean Sea was defined as a biodiversity hotspot for conservation priorities given its high level of endemism, ranging between 20-30%, its threatened species, and also for the human pressure it has undergone over the centuries.

The work of IUCN aims to support the maintenance and restoration of marine biological integrity, including species composition, habitat structure, and the functioning of the Mediterranean Sea ecosystem. It specifically addresses:

  • Ecosystem-based conservation
  • Mitigating impacts on biodiversity
  • Social resilience of resource-dependant communities
  • Key marine biodiversity areas

These objectives address questions relevant to conservation and management from a broad range of disciplines, including ecology, biogeography, anthropology, environmental and ecological economics, and environmental law and ethics.

The overall aim is to implement a:

Coherent network of marine protected areas that ecologically and socially represents the Mediterranean Sea and its people

In various international treaties, countries have recognised the need for and committed to increasing the area of marine protection within their jurisdictions to reduce the loss of biodiversity. The Barcelona Convention (1995) addressed conservation priorities by establishing Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance. The European Community initiated work on an ecological network (Natura 2000), and with an extension to non-EC countries, the Bern Convention launched the Emerald network. At the 7th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, parties formally recognised the target of the World Summit on Sustainable Development to establish comprehensive, effectively-managed and ecologically representative national and regional systems of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2012 and committed to the effective conservation of at least 10% of each of the world's ecological regions by 2010. Moreover, during the World Parks Congress (2003), countries called on the international community to create networks of protected areas that should be extensive and include strictly protected areas that amount to at least 20-30% of each habitat.

Protection objectives often complement a broad range of other national development objectives that extend beyond environmental protection. Food security, decreased poverty incidence, improved governance, increased added value in international trade, and economic growth, are increasingly being seen as consistent with the more traditional environmental agenda of biodiversity conservation.

The aim of IUCN is addressed on a number of scales:

Regional work
IUCN is working towards the development of a network of MPAs that ecologically and socially represents the habitats, species and people of the Mediterranean Sea; as well as strengthening partnerships and links with major research groups and international agencies; and exchanging useful tools amongst individuals and institutions dealing with Mediterranean MPAs. More

National work
Capacity development and institutional support from IUCN is designed to establish and properly manage marine protected areas by providing the appropriate human, financial and physical resources. More

Site-based work
IUCN is supporting countries in the South and East of the Mediterranean in marine biodiversity and socioeconomic assessment, and the design and management of nationally nominated sites and MPAs. More

Effective marine conservation is based on the willingness to take risks and address complex problems. IUCN’s approach is to address these complex issues using a wide range of biological, political, and legal expertise available through its global networks. The Marine Programme initiative is implemented in close collaboration with a number of working groups including the IUCN Global Marine Programme, the World Commission on Marine Protected Areas,  the Marine Mediterranean Group, the Species Survival Commission, the Mediterranean Species Programme, the Tropical Marine Ecosystems Working Group, the Commission on Ecosystem Management, and the Business and Biodiversity Programme.

Scorpaena notata on Mediterranean coralligenous assemblage

To learn more about Mediterranean biodiversity you can download a selected list of references here.

Mediterranean landscape
Visit the Marine Protected Areas of the Mediterranean Sea
Status of MPAs in the Mediterranean
Conserving Marine Biodiversity
  • Calanques Marseille
Protect Planet Ocean - the MPA portal
IUCN publications on MPAs
Selected References about Mediterranean Marine Conservation
  • Serpulids
  • Short-beaked common dolphins