State of the Environment

The main objective of the Barcelona Convention, its protocols and strategies is to effect real changes to improve the environment in the Mediterranean Sea area. It is essential to have a good understanding of whether progress is being made towards accomplishing the objectives set, and to identify where better performance is needed.

Article 26 of the Barcelona Convention provides for the Contracting Parties obligation to transmit to the Secretariat reports on the legal, administrative or other measures taken by them for the implementation of the Convention and Protocols as well as on the effectiveness of these measures and the problems encountered. In addition, Contracting Parties have agreed under Article 15 of the Convention, to provide to the Public access to information on the State of the Environment in the field of application of the Convention and Protocols.

Results of this process should provide knowledge on the trends in the Mediterranean environment and serve as feedback that will improve the effectiveness Programmes of Work and actions undertaken in the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan.

The pertinent information from different national sources collected by MAP components, in addition, to other regional initiatives, including the MEDSTAT Programme and activities under way at the EEA, generate information about the State of the Environment.

The Ultimate goal for State of the Environment reporting in the Mediterranean is to move towards a 'report once' approach whereby relevant data is collected following agreed standards so that they can be used for multiple purposes, including national needs, European Commission requirements, requirements of other conventions, etc.

Several efforts to systematically compile information on the state of the marine and coastal environment and development in the Mediterranean have been made over the years. These efforts have resulted in a series of reports, focused on fields of activity and thematic areas of competence of MAP components containing a wealth of information which have also concretely contributed to the raising of awareness on environmental issues in the region as well as the visibility of the MAP, Barcelona Convention and Protocols:

The State of the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Environment Report (2012) highlights the following major issues requiring coordinated policy and management responses in the coming years in order to stem the tide of degradation of the Mediterranean ecosystems.

  • Coastal development and sprawl;
  • Chemical contamination of sediments and biota;
  • Eutrophication (mostly of local concern);
  • Marine litter, concentrated mostly in bays and shallow waters;
  • Over-exploitation beyond sustainable limits;
  • Sea-floor integrity is affected mainly by bottom fishing, but also by dredging and offshore installations;
  • Invasive non-indigenous species;
  • The impact of marine noise on biota, especially on marine mammals;
  • Changed hydrographic conditions caused by local disruption of circulation patterns, due to humans-made structures;
  • Marine food webs affected by fisheries pressures;
  • Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production are upstream drivers of the above mentioned pressures and impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems.
  • Pressures on biodiversity related to the cumulative effects of pressures on the Mediterranean coastal and marine environment. Although there is still high diversity in the Mediterranean, some species of reptiles, marine mammals, birds, and fish are reaching dangerously low abundance levels.
  • Climate change impact is becoming increasingly evident in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Region is considered as “high vulnerable to climate change” and it “will suffer multiple stresses and systemic failures due to climate changes” (IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2014)).