Project Manaia

Marine Protected Areas of the Mediterranean

Recognized as efficient tools for protecting ecosystems, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are marine and coastal sites constructed and managed with the aim of preserving biodiversity.

MPAs can occupy many landscapes like  the open ocean, freshwater habitats, lakes and estuaries. Each MPA comes with its own restrictions. Some ban fishing activity so that ecosystems and fish populations replenish themselves at faster rates. Some limit human activity while some ban visitors entirely. 

This is a key component of an MPA  : A limit to human activity. This minimizes damage to the space designated for the MPA.

The many names of Marine Protected Areas

MPAs fall under many different names:

  • Marine Sanctuaries
  • Marine Parks
  • Marine conservation zones
  • Marine Reserves
  • No-take zones

    Benefits of Marine Protected Areas

    Climate regulation

    The Mediterranean is heating up 20% faster than the rest of the world. A functioning healthy MPA stores carbon dioxide. When  the protected area  is located in coastal ecosystems with seagrass beds, mangroves, vegetation and salt marshes.

    Coastline protection

    By preserving ecosystems like seagrass meadows and reefs, MPAs can protect against coastal erosion.

    Increased food security

    In addition to marine life, MPAs also protect the livelihoods of fishermen and stimulate the local economy through  tourism and the sustainable management of fish stocks.

    Furthermore, MPAs also have cultural value, their aesthetic nature educational, recreational, scientific and spiritual  qualities are  invaluable.

    The importance of Marine protected areas in the Mediterranean

    The traditional sectors of the maritime continue to grow and generate significant pressures on the natural resources and marine and coastal ecosystems of the Mediterranean. In 2030,marine and coastal environments are subject to a lot of pressure  from traditional sectors. These sectors include :

    •  Fisheries.
    • Transport.
    •  Aquaculture.
    •  Tourism.

    A bunch of negative effects come with these sectors such as: overfishing, littering, coastal development and water pollution. As these sectors grow, the natural resources of the sea and coast become burdened. Outside of these sectors, there is also  the looming danger of climate change. Suffice to say, protecting the ocean is really important for the Mediterranean regions and marine protected areas are a great way to do so.

    Below, you can explore some of these marine protected areas.

    Columbretes Island Marine Reserve, Spain

    This reserve, formed in 1990, is found in the western Mediterranean sea. Various  underwater caves, deep-green seagrass beds and rocky shores are found here. A marine reserve  of this kind allows for sustainable use of natural resources.

    Columbretes Island seen from the sea

    There are several species found on the island: lookout for a  wide-mouthed, big-eyed fish called the dusky grouper.  Bottlenose Dolphins, Loggerhead sea turtles, European spiny lobsters (crayfish) swim around here too.

    A dusky grouper

    Columbretes island reserve is a breeding area for dolphins and whales in addition to a nursery area for seabirds. Anyone can feel free to swim and snorkel here. Scuba diving, anchoring and yachting are fine as well, but both are regulated. Fish and shrimp cages are forbidden along with oil extraction, sand mining and maritime traffic such as cargo ships and passenger ships.

    Palm Islands Nature Reserve, Lebanon

    Palm islands Nature Reserve, Lebanon is a  habitat/species management area. The palm islands reserve was established in 1992. It is a beautiful spot filled with sand dunes, an underwater canyon, underwater caves and  rocky shores which surround a small island.

    Birds love it on the reserve. Take a walk along the beach, and you may be lucky enough to spot a Yellow-legged  gull or an Audouin’s gull. Take a swim, and a green turtle may stick its head out to greet you. From the rocky shore may come  the distinct call of a European monk seal. Unlike  the  Nature Reserve  in Montenegro, Palm islands reserve is not a no-go zone.

    Leisurely activities like walking , hiking, swimming, snorkeling and non-motorized water sports are permitted but regulated. Other permitted activities  include scuba diving, yachting and wildlife watching. You can go to Palm Islands reserve but under no circumstances can you take from the reserve. It is in fact,  a no-take MPA after all. This may surprise you, but coastal development is allowed in this area.  Tourist infrastructure, dikes and artificial reefs can be built here under regulated conditions, of course.

    Tivatska Solila,Montenegro

    Landscape Solila Special Nature Reserve
    Solila Special Nature Reserve and Protected Area for Birds

    Tivatska Solila  is a Special Nature Reserve in Montenegro. Created in 2008, this nature reserve is a no-go MPA , and is a  protected seascape. The area is unique in its geology. Mud flats and  salt marshes are sprinkled throughout the reserve along with an estuary and coastal lagoons that connect to the sea. 

    The main species in the reserve are seabirds. Flying, nesting and nursing around the reserve are dalmatian pelicans, little gulls and gull-billed-terns. Unfortunately, these bird species can only be watched from a distance in  Tivatska Solila  as it is a no-go MPA. Wildlife watching, scuba diving, yachting, small-scale fishing and walking are all forbidden as well.

    Achéron and Kalamá and Elos Kalodikíou, Greece

    This natural reserve is found in the Ionian Sea and the Central Mediterranean Sea. The protected area is rich with a variety of landscapes. Here, you can follow estuaries and coastal lagoons that lead to the sea. There are beaches, rocky cliffs and reefs in the reserve. In the sea , you can find seagrass beds waving back and forth ,and vibrant corals piling  together to form habitats.  Farther on ,you can dig your feet into mud flats, salt marshes and sand dunes.

    The great landscape attracts marine life like marine turtles, sea birds, dolphins and whales. These species use the spot as a transit area and also as a foraging and nursery site.

    A marine turtle in the sea

    Image by Richard Segal via Pexels

    Achéron and Kalamá and Elos Kalodikíou is a type of reserve that permits sustainable use of its natural resources.

    Spread the word on Marine Protected Areas

    The results of an MPA depend on a couple of factors such as location, size and enforcement. A local management team should, preferably, be in charge of applying and monitoring the MPAs Limitations and regulations.

    One of the best ways to ensure effectiveness of an MPA is to  reach out. Spreading awareness to the public  about the practices and restrictions of a particular MPA could help curb  unwanted activities in the area, whether that be fishing, swimming, or mining. Spreading knowledge is a  small step forward towards the protection of livelihoods and biodiversity.

    Written by Ayanna Adams

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