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SPAMIs in open seas

There are 32 SPAMIs already established in the Mediterranean in accordance with article 9 of the SPA and Biodiversity protocol of the Barcelona Convention and the decision of COP17 in February 2012. However the representativeness is unbalanced, as only one of them (Pelagos Sanctuary) clearly embraces open seas, including deep seas.

The aim of a Joint Management Action of the European Community with the United Nations Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) started in 2007 is to promote through the SPAMI system the establishment of a representative network of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean open seas, including the deep seas. This is a strategy to reach the Aichi 2020 target, where 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes. This is also stated in the decisions of COP 16 in Marrakesh and COP 17 in Paris regarding the Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) in the Mediterranean. The action is implemented by the UNEP MAP Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) according to consecutive different phases.



First-phase (2008-2009)

The first phase was completed in 2009 and included an assessment based on the available scientific knowledge to identify priority conservation areas in the open seas, including the deep seas, likely to contain sites that could be candidates for the SPAMI List. As per the decision IG 20/7 of the COP 17 of the Barcelona Convention the study “Synthesis report on the work carried out regarding EBSAs identification in the Mediterranean” has been presented to the CBD.


Second-phase (2010-2011)

The second phase completed in 2011 aimed to facilitate the process of designating as SPAMIs certain sites in areas beyond national jurisdiction included in the priority conservation areas identified during the first phase, by supporting the establishment of agreed procedures among Parties and catalyzing working groups between neighboring countries concerned.

Third-phase (2012-2014)

On the basis of the lessons learned from the implementation of the project’s second phase, and upon consultation with the project Steering Committee at its third meeting (December 16, 2011. Tunis, Tunisia), the next phase aims to contributing to build a framework with the countries and competent organizations to facilitate the joint establishment of SPAMIs in open seas, including the deep seas.

Several of the follow up activities agreed with the project Steering Committee are included in this proposal, having regard that: a) not all the actions envisaged for a third phase regarding open seas conservation might be financed through the available funds under this Project; b) several non EU countries have shown their willingness for transboundary cooperation for the creation of SPAMIs jointly with their European Union neighbours, notably in the areas of Alboran Sea, Adriatic Sea and Strait of Sicily.

These activities will add up to CBD target on marine protected areas, UNEP/MAP SAP BIO regional priorities and EU biodiversity strategy, Natura 2000 and other EU legal instruments as appropriate, through the improvement of the representativeness of the Mediterranean network of marine protected areas (which is currently mainly made of coastal MPAs).

They contribute to build a framework with countries neighbour to the EU and key competent organizations in the region to facilitate the joint establishment of SPAMIs in open seas, including the deep seas, through:

  • National and sub-regional consultation processes facilitation to countries showing interest, both on-going (Alboran Sea) and starting (Adriatic Sea, Strait of Sicily), in order to support the preparation of joint SPAMI proposal in areas embracing open seas and engaging countries neighbour to EU in the process

The countries surrounding the areas that are already involved in coordination processes have proved their involvement and favourable will for those areas conservation. The other two areas to be addressed in this new phase comprise several countries having already expressed to RAC/SPA their willingness for supporting the development of exchanges aimed to the same purpose.

Consultation processes will be set up through the organization of sub-regional meetings. If need be, depending on the national context, national meetings will be supported to inform the different departments and Ministries concerned, with the purpose of facilitating their participation to the sub-regional consultation meetings.

Relying on Decision IG.20/7 and the new section added to the Annotated Format for the presentation reports for the areas proposed for inclusion in the SPAMI List that could be used for the preliminary declaration of SPAMI proposals, the neighbouring countries involved in consultation processes will be strongly invited to use this possibility as a first politically committed step towards the preparation of joint SPAMI proposals.

  • Identification of good practices for elaborating, adopting and implementing management plans in the case of those joint SPAMIs in the open seas

Pursuant to the reflections initiated with the “Approach to facilitate the preparation of joint proposals for inclusion in the SPAMI List in accordance with Article 9 of the SPA/BD Protocol”, this activity will be done through a study on best practices and case studies related to the management of wide trans-boundary areas, straddle marine resources as well as marine protected areas comprising notably large extensions of ocean. Through this study a particular attention will be given on the institutional aspects related to the elaboration and implementation of the management plans in the Parties which have demonstrated their willingness to participate in the establishment of joint SPAMIs. This study will support the Contracting Parties to get clearer ideas on the kind of existing structures and governance bodies of trans-boundary managed areas, and on their functioning related to the elaboration, adoption and implementation of their management plan.

  • Development of a joint strategy with ACCOBAMS, IUCN and GFCM in coordination with MedPAN, on how to address the issues of common interest in Alboran Sea, Adriatic Sea and Strait of Sicily, including promotion and fund raising for oceanographic surveys in those areas

The short and medium term programmes and activities of the above institutions will be jointly analysed and discussed in order to search for commonalities and future synergies favouring the conservation of pelagic and deep seas ecosystems in those areas. In addition, a position paper, containing a comprehensive breakdown of each organization’s position on the topics being discussed, informing on current facts on the matter, regarding each organizations, as well as proposals for common resolutions on the issues related to the establishment and management of joint SPAMIs in open seas will be jointly elaborated by the involved organizations (MedPAN, ACCOBAMS, IUCN, GFCM and MAP) and will be sent to their respective Focal Points with the purpose of promoting synergy at the national levels between the different concerned Ministries. Oceanographic surveys will be jointly promoted and fund raising pursued.

To obtain the technical reports published in the framework of the project.

For more information on the SPAMIs in open seas Project, please contact Dr. Daniel Cebrian:

or visit the MedABNJ's website