Seminar on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas sheds light on additional opportunities for biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean

UNEP/MAP Deputy Coordinator Tatjana Hema and Mr. Khalil Attia, SPA/RAC Director, participated in the Mediterranean Seminar on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas held in Tirana, Albania, on 12 December 2019.

Left to right: Ms Tatjana Hema, MAP Deputy Coordinator,
H.E. Mr. Blendi Klosi, Minister of Tourism and Environment of Albania
and Mr. Khalil Attia, SPA/RAC Director

The seminar, which was opened by H.E. Mr. Blendi Klosi, Minister of Tourism and Environment of Albania, provided representatives of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols with information and with an opportunity to undertake an in-depth discussion on the procedure for the designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA), including criteria and legal aspects in line with IMO guidelines.

Referring to the work undertaken by UNEP/MAP to establish Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI), marine protected areas and other area-based management measures in the Mediterranean, Deputy Coordinator Tatjana Hema emphasized “the need for considering -- where appropriate -- their completion with measures addressing shipping routes and other measures as need be.” Ms. Hema also said that the meeting brought about a better understanding of opportunities offered by PSSA tools and related IMO guidelines.

Best practices shared by participants from other regions were complemented with training on issues related to PSSA designation and IMO respective regulations and guidelines. The Seminar was followed by a training on Marine Spatial Planning for the Albania team involved in the GEF Adriatic Project.

According to Ms. Hema, exploring additional opportunities for biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean finds its justification in the alarming state of ecosystems in the region. The State of the Environment and Development Report (SoED 2019), a major publication to be launched in 2020 that was prepared under the coordination of Plan Bleu – the France-based UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre–, highlights the fact that the Mediterranean Sea is host to the world’s busiest shipping lanes and is the second busiest cruising region in the world after the Caribbean with 15.8 per cent of global cruise fleet deployment in 2017.

The 1st scientific assessment report about climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean undertaken by the network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC), 34% of fish species are lost due to overfishing. According to SPA/RAC, the UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre specializing in biodiversity protection, only 10% of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are managed in line with the required standards. The Target 14.5 under the Sustainable Development Goal 14 dedicated to the Ocean -- “Conserve at least 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020” -- was not achieved in the Mediterranean region.

This challenging state of affairs illustrates the importance of the undertaking discussed in Tirana, where the representatives of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention thrashed out practical aspects related to the possible designation of PSSAs in the Mediterranean. The seminar in Albania is part of UNEP/MAP activities funded by the Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection (IMELS) of Italy and aiming at supporting the identification and planning of Marine Spatial Planning measures.

Considering the multitude of technical issues involved, several UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centers, namely SPA/RAC, REMPEC and PAP/RAC, are working together under the guidance of the Coordinating Unit to shore up the Contracting Parties’ efforts in area-based conservation measures for the protection of species and habitats and in the sustainable management of marine and coastal resources in the Mediterranean.

The UNEP/MAP Programme of Work for the 2020-2021 biennium adopted at COP21 (Naples, Italy, 2-5 December 2019) includes the elaboration of a post-2020 strategic document on Marine Protected Areas and other effective area-based conservation measures in the Mediterranean, in line with the UNCBD post-2020 global biodiversity framework. In addition, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols adopted an updated strategy for the conservation of the iconic Monk Seal and updated plans for the conservation of sharks, rays and other cartilaginous fishes. In addition, four new sites were designated as Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) in France, Italy, Slovenia and Spain.

Date of Article: 
Tuesday, December 17, 2019