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06/19: Mediterranean countries discuss the conservation of marine biodiversity in the Region

NFP 14

The Thematic Focal Points for Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity, representing the Mediterranean countries and the European Union, held their 14th meeting in Portorož, Slovenia, from 18 to 21 June 2019

Representatives of 20 Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention were present at the Meeting, as well as many partners (ACCOBAMS, RAMOGE, HCMR, IUCN-Med, IOGP, MEDASSET, MedPAN, The MedFund, The Shark Trust, Shark Advocates International, WWF-MedPO) and the MAP Coordinator.

This 14th edition differs from the previous ones by the involvement of MAP Focal Points and other MAP components. Indeed, seven MAP Focal Points participated in the meeting, as well as representatives of INFO/RAC, PAP/RAC and REMPEC. The purpose of this initiative was to test the "thematic" way of organizing the meeting with the integration of horizontal topics of the MAP Mid-Term Strategy with the Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity theme.

Conservation of species and habitats

The Meeting reviewed a set of documents that will be submitted to the MAP focal points and then to the 21st Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP 21) for adoption in December 2019. Once adopted, these documents will serve as reference documents to harmonize, improve or develop national environmental policies, strategies and action plans related to marine and coastal species and habitats, as well as natural marine and coastal sites conservation, monitoring and management.

The  Meeting reviewed and agreed on the updated Regional strategy for the conservation of monk seal, the updated Action plans for the conservation of marine turtles, cartilaginous fishes (sharks and rays) and marine vegetation in the Mediterranean Sea, the updated Classification of benthic marine habitat types for the Mediterranean region and the updated Reference list of marine habitat types for the selection of sites to be included in the national inventories of natural sites of conservation interest in the Mediterranean. The Meeting reviewed and agreed also on the Mediterranean offshore guidelines and standards (guidelines for environmental impact assessment) and the draft updated Guidelines for regulating the placement of artificial reefs at sea.

The Meeting examined the outcomes of the evaluation of implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the conservation of Biological diversity in the Mediterranean region (SAP BIO) since its adoption in 2003. The Meeting agreed on the proposal to develop a post-2020 SAP BIO tailored to the biodiversity conservation challenges and provided guidance to be submitted to the MAP focal points meeting and to the COP 21 for adoption.

Conservation of sites

Following approval by the Meeting, four proposals of areas for inclusion in the List of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI List) will be submitted to COP 21 for adoption. Those are the Cerbère-Banyuls Marine Nature Reserve (France), the Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area (Italy), the Landscape Park Strunjan (Slovenia) and the Cetaceans Migration Corridor in the Mediterranean (Spain).

The SPAMI List was created, in 2001, in application of the Article 8 of the SPA/DB Protocol of the Barcelona Convention to promote cooperation in the management and conservation of natural areas, as well as in the protection of threatened species and their habitats. At present, the SPAMI List includes 35 sites proposed by 10 countries.

The implementation of the Roadmap for a comprehensive coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) to achieve Aichi Target 11 in the Mediterranean was evaluated. The Meeting agreed on the proposal to develop a new post-2020 roadmap, and to the continuation of the Ad hoc Group of Experts for MPAs in the Mediterranean (AGEM) work. The initiative to create the ad hoc group of experts was based on the need to have a multidisciplinary think tank that can provide advice and timely orientations on MPAs planning and management in the Mediterranean region.

Side events

Five side events were held on the margins of the meeting. The first one was convened by IUCN-Med and dealt with marine biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation in MPA planning, particularly with the status of Pinna nobilis (a species listed in the Annex II of the SPA/BD Protocol).

The 2017- 2019 MAVA projects implemented by SPA/RAC and its partners, i.e. MedKeyHabitats II, Kuriat, Deep Sea Lebanon, Med Bycatch, Species Knowledge, Marine Turtle Projects, were presented on the second day of the meeting. This side event allowed to have a complete picture on the work being done and to further appreciate the links and complementarity between the 2016-2020 MAP Mid Terme Strategy (MTS) and the MAVA strategy 2016-2022 for the Mediterranean Basin.

The MedFund, the environmental fund for Mediterranean MPAs, was also presented at the second day of the meeting and raised a great interest among the audience. Financing is indeed a key issue and one of the most important requirements for efficient and effective MPA management.

The main results of the European Union-funded project “Towards an ecologically representative and efficiently managed network of Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas” (MedMPA Network Project) were presented on Thursday 20. The project allowed among other achievements the development of three management plans, respectively in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, the establishment of the AGEM group on a trial basis (2018-2019) and supported the organization of the 2016 MPA Forum.

The last side event presented the results of the 2018 exploration campaign for areas of deep ecological interest under the initiative of RAMOGE and provided an insight on little known and still largely unexplored sites between 2000 and 6000 m deep, located in France, Italy and Monaco.

Field visit

SPA/RAC, in collaboration with the Slovenian authorities, offered participants the opportunity to discover the Landscape Park Strunjan and its characteristic terraces and drystone walls and the northernmost still-operating saltpans in the Mediterranean. The park was founded in order to conserve valuable natural features, biodiversity and landscape diversity within it. It is involved in the SPA/RAC SPAMI Twinning Programme financed by the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS).

The next SPA/BD Focal Points meeting is expected to be organised in mid-2021.

The working documents and final report of the 14th SPA/BD thematic Focal Points meeting will be available soon at SPA/RAC website.

All the pictures of the meeting are available on the following link: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmEkWvQY