Coast Day 2019: celebrating the importance of Mediterranean coastal zones

The 2019 edition of the Coast Day celebration was held in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, on 25 September 2019. The Priority Actions Programme/Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC) organized the event in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus.

Mr. Gaetano Leone, UNEP/MAP Coordinator, delivering his speech at the event opening.
Mr. Gaetano Leone, Coordinator, UN Environment /MAP © Department of Environment (Cyprus)

Coast Day, which is celebrated annually since 2007, is aimed at raising awareness of the importance and vulnerability of the coastal zones in the Mediterranean.

The Deputy Minister for Shipping, the Permanent Secretary for shipping, the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, the Mayor of Ayia Napa and representatives of the Department of Environment of Cyprus attended the event. Ms. Xenia Loizidou, Director of the AKTI Project and Research Centre, was announced as the Coast Day Ambassador for 2019.

Participants in the Coast Day event in Cyprus included tourism professionals and local authority officials as well as non-governmental organizations.

The Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Strategy for Cyprus (2018-2030) took centre stage this year. “Let’s be strategic”, the theme selected for this year’s edition, reflects the need to apply a strategic ICZM approach to the management of coastal zones.

In his speech at the opening session, Mr. Gaetano Leone, the UNEP/MAP Coordinator, observed that “Coast Day has become a tradition for many years now around the Mediterranean. A tradition that helps us reflect on the state of the coastal areas of the Mediterranena and think together what measures can be taken to reduce pressures being exerted on them".

Mr. Leone underscored the importance of the ICZM protocol as an instrument for sustainable coastal development, and for the implementation of national integrated coastal and marine management policies. The ICZM Protocol of the Barcelona Convention constitutes the umbrella under which tools such as the Ecosystem-Approach; climate change adaptation and mitigation; disaster risk reduction and Marine Spatial Planning can be applied in harmony to protect the coastal and marine ecosystems at national level and across the entire Mediterranean basin.

Ms. Xenia Loizidou, Director of the AKTI Project and Research Centre, was announced as the Coast Day Ambassador for 2019.
Left to right: Ms Natasa Pilides, Deputy Minister for Shipping, Cyprus; Ms. Xenia Loizidou, Director of the AKTI Project and Research Centre - Ambassador for the Coast 2019; Mr. Gaetano Leone, UNEP/MAP Coordinator; and Ms Zeljka Skarcic, Director of PAP-RAC © Department of Environment (Cyprus)

“What is good is that there is a real commitment on the part of governments; a commitment that resulted more than forty years ago in developing and signing the Barcelona Convention that brought us the ICZM Protocol, which entered into force in 2011. Some aspects of our work are not media-friendly. You probably will not read in the newspaper about the Common Regional Framework about ICZM or about the ratification of the ICZM Protocol and yet these are real things that provide a framework for action and a legally binding commitment for governments that allow us to move forward. And we move forward with all of our partners, with all of you", remarked the UNEP/MAP Coordinator.

The Mediterranean Action Plan is working with the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention on the development of a Common Regional Framework to underpin the implementation of the ICZM protocol in a harmonized and efficient manner.

On climate change adapation, which is a key aspect of the ICZM Protocol, the UNEP/MAP Coordinator noted that Coast Day 2019 coincided with the release of the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate by the IPCC. He recalled that the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report notes that the Mediterranean Region is “highly vulnerable to climate change” and that it will suffer multiple stresses and systemic failures due to climate change.

“This week in New York, the Climate Change Summit and the General Assembly are focussing on the environmental crisis that we are going through. Climate change is one of these. The difference this year is that we see – I think as never before – such a strong voice from the younger generation. I believe that this something that will indeed make us think more and more about our responsibility for those who come after us", remarked Mr. Leone .

UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centres continue to provide technical support and capacity building to our national partners. Ms. Željka Škaričić, PAP/RAC Director, spoke about ICZM and Marine Spatial Planning within the Barcelona Convention.

PAP/RAC is coordinating the implementation of The Coastal Area Management Programme, known as CAMP. CAMP applies ICZM in pilots located across the Mediterranean, including here in Cyprus. CAMP Cyprus was instrumental in the elaboration of the Cyprus national coastal strategy.

In Cyprus, the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (SPA/RAC) is supporting the elaboration of the National Action Plan for the conservation of marine vegetation, and the National Action Plan concerning species introduction and invasive species. UNEP/MAP is also assisting in other fields, including the Cyprus spatial data infrastructure (SDI); the publication of online biodiversity information using GIS (Geographic Information Systems); and the evaluation of the vulnerability of Posidonia Meadows to fishing activities in the Capo Greko Marine Protected Area.

During the Coast Day event, representatives of Albania and Italy, and of Cyprus and Israel presented transboundary CAMP projects.The aim of Transboundary CAMP projects is to promote cross-border harmonization of coastal management and common approaches towards implementation of obligations under the provisions of the ICZM Protocol.

Representatives of Lebanon and Croatia presented their experiences in devising national ICZM strategies.

The Regional Activtiy Centre for Information and Communication (INFO/RAC) unveiled a mobile application serving to collect geo-referenced data on marine litter across the Mediterranean region.

Participants in the Coast Day observance in the Thalassa Museum, Ayia Napa (Cyprus) © Department of Environment (Cyprus)

Celebrations across the Mediterranean

In addition to the main event hosted by Cyprus, several celebrations took place in other Mediterranean countries.

In Montenegro, the Public Enterprise for Coastal Zone Management organized cleaning activities in the beach of Ulcinj with the participation of school children.

Slovenia hosted a Coast Week. This year, it comprised various sea and beach cleaning activities and several thematic workshops, including a session on green infrastructure.

Coast Day celebrations were also organized by PAP/RAC as part of the MAVA project in three Mediterranean locations: Oristano (Sardinia, Italy); Ghar el Melh (Tunisia) and Velipoja (Albania).

In Sardinia, partners held a five-day event based on the activities of the Maristanis project (including activities addressed to reduce water use in agriculture and tourism sectors) as well as an exhibition on weaving products linked to the project.

In Tunisia, a two-day event featured a human chain at vulnerable sites in Ghar el Melh. The programme also included storytelling activities.

In Albania, partners organized the Coast Day for the first time. The celebration took place in the Buna River Velipoje Protected Landscape and included various activities, including a fair offering local dishes and traditional arts and crafts.

Coast day events in Ghar el Melh,Tunisia (top) and Albania,  Buna River Velipoje Protected Landscape, Albania (bottom) © Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre

On 25 September 2019, the first of a series of 10 workshops entitled “Embrace the Sea took place at the City library “Marko Marulic” in Split, Croatia. Accompanied by a facilitator from the Centre for Integrative Bioethics of the University of Split, a group of ten-year-old children had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of respecting the coastal and marine environment by following the storytelling adventures of an adventurous beagle who, for the first time, encounters a sea turtle. "What drives people to throw waste at sea?", "What will become of our oceans if we continue to reject plastic waste?" or "Can we change our habits to avoid damaging endangered species” ? These were only some of the questions raised by children, and to which they sought answers with the help of their facilitator. The event was organized by PAP/RAC jointly with several Split-based institutions, including the Administrative Department of Tourism and the Sea of the Split-Dalmatia County; "Petit philosophy Association”; the Centre for Integrative Bioethics; and the City library “Marko Marulic”.

Coast day poster © Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre

Date of Article: 
Thursday, September 26, 2019