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Mediterranean countries set to change course and protect 30% of the sea by 2030

Rome, Antalya - Today Mediterranean countries have jointly committed to protect 30% of the Mediterranean by 2030, tackle plastic pollution and reduce air pollution, setting the region on the path to a new ambitious decade of sustainable development.

WWF welcomes the decision adopted at the end of the 22nd Conference of Contracting Parties (COP22) for the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) that took place this week in Antalya, Turkey.

Camille Loth, Policy Manager at WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative said: 

“Mediterranean countries are finally starting to respond to the urgency of the biodiversity, pollution and climate crises we are facing in the region, and are sending a message to the world: the Mediterranean is ready to change course and move towards real sustainability. All we need now is to turn this message into concrete actions.”

Increasing scientific evidence is showing that putting at least 30% of the Mediterranean under some form of protection would contribute to the recovery of biodiversity, but also help rebuild commercial fish stocks that benefit the fisheries sector and increase the climate resilience of the whole region. For WWF, the new target and measures to protect 30% of the Mediterranean Sea by 2030 must be turned into a global 30% global protection target at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity taking place in China in Spring 2022. 

WWF also welcomes the new measures adopted to respond to the record high levels of plastic and air pollution in the Mediterranean. The Contracting Parties have confirmed the support for a UN legally binding Treaty on Plastic and approved a strengthened regional plan on marine litter, requiring countries to adopt time-bound targets for reducing single-use and microplastic and increasing collection and recycling. 

In addition, Contracting Parties agreed to designate the Mediterranean as a Sulphur Emission Control Area from January 2025, to reduce threatening sulphur emissions coming from the shipping sector. Together with other NGOs, WWF is also calling for restrictions to be extended to harmful nitrogen emissions to significantly improve the health of Mediterranean coastal communities and prevent up to 4100 premature deaths annually by 2030. 

“There’s a lot to be done to move from the current 1.27% to 30% of the Mediterranean effectively protected and with strong discrepancies among countries. But it’s achievable if we quickly see increased financial flows and public subsidies that support marine protection instead of destroying it, a change in decision making that is more inclusive and empowers local communities and finally a mechanism that keeps governments accountable. The future of the Mediterranean Sea can only be secured if all countries move ahead in the same direction and at the same speed”, concluded Loth.