Advancing governance in the western Mediterranean basin

What is the challenge at stake?

Achieving a Good Environmental Status of marine environment and conservation of coastal ecosystems in balance with socio-economic development in the western Mediterranean region is a major challenge demanding a solid and well-coordinated managerial framework, able to equilibrate competing demands for limited natural resources and limited space. Environmental concerns in the western Mediterranean have been well-identified under different long-lasting and consolidated governance frameworks1. Environmental concerns in the western Mediterranean region have been well-identified under different long-lasting and consolidated governance frameworks2. Among these, the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean3 and its protocols provide the legally-binding set of instruments for addressing common environmental issues and protecting marine environment and coastal region of the Mediterranean. While, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean provides an equivalent legally binding framework for fisheries management in support of environmentally sustainable harvesting of biological resources.

A tradition of cooperation on marine and maritime issues is in place in the Mediterranean, and a wide range of agreements and strategic initiatives (e.g. International Maritime Organization Blue Belt by FAO, UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan, Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter, and Integrated Coastal Zone Management Action Plan among others) have been adopted and ratified by most of the surrounding countries. In particular, environmental issues have been the subject of various initiatives under the framework of UNEP/MAP – and in most cases, in partnership with other regional structures4 – the implementation of which is supported by a solid network of Regional Activity Centres (RACs)5.

What are the persisting problems and gaps identified?

A number of persisting problems in the current governance arrangements remain, such as weak engagement, involvement and participation of stakeholders in the decision-making processes. Improved integration and networking within administrations, between administrations and with economic and community institutions outside/beyond administrations open up new forms of arrangements and partnerships, and offer a way forward for a smart and sustainable development and management of maritime activities.

The private sector, traditionally left behind, must be actively involved as a generator of financial benefits emerging from an increased eco-efficiency and an eco-industry able to produce growth and jobs while fully respecting and protecting public health and natural resources. Key players are also academia and other professional communities (e.g. industry), as vectors of generation and transmission of scientific and technical knowledge and information that need to be leveraged in the service of the sustainable development (and use of biological and mineral resources), to stimulate innovation and improve competitiveness and efficiency of industry, public authorities and researchers. Finally, stronger engagement of citizens is needed to spur governments and companies and support their continued commitment on the long-term.

In the Mediterranean Sea marine life is heavily threatened by habitat degradation mostly due to human activities, such as fisheries, ship traffic, water pollution, coastal anthropization.

The cetacean populations are currently affected by heavy pollution which contaminates the marine food web by overexploitation of marine resources due to unsustainable and not selective fishery, and also by direct and indirect take of cetaceans.

Coastal development, intensive tourism, and land reclamation for agriculture place pressures on key wildlife habitats in the Mediterranean. Local and regional problems related to pollution, specifically effluents from domestic and industrial sources, oil transportation and refineries, and agricultural runoff, are beginning to have an impact on wildlife.

Additionally, intense development, sand excavation, urbanization, and the release of untreated sewage into the sea is a major public health issue, as increased numbers of microorganisms have led to an increase in several diseases. The fisheries of this region have been overexploited and many local fisheries are declining as a consequence of indiscriminate trawl fishing and high levels of by-catch.

Besides, the enforcement of already adopted and new environmental regulation relies upon the existence of a structured institutional and administrative framework, well-organised at all levels (international, regional, national, local), and able to provide coordinated and results-based planning, management and implementation. In order to support this, there is a need to strengthen the capacity to attract sustained financial resources and investments, by facilitating, catalysing and enhancing access to inclusive financial mechanisms while keeping balanced governance (global/regional, private/public). There is also a need to set up adequate financial resources management and allocation models to make available sufficient financial and human resources to assure appropriate public organisation and participation, particularly at local level.

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Spatial planning and integrated coastal management

Marine environment and maritime knowledge/data

Enhancing cooperation and governance