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What type of economic relaunch can we have in a depleted sea? The relaunch of the Mediterranean economy must necessarily start with the recovery of its most important shared asset: the Sea.

Healthy oceans, coastlines and marine ecosystems are essential for a sustainable and resilient blue economy, but their contribution is routinely taken for granted.

Many of the benefits they provide don’t have an explicit market value, providing little incentive for decision-makers to account for the impacts of overuse or degradation.

Developing economic activities at sea while maintaining a healthy and functional marine ecosystem is the biggest challenge of the coming decade. 

Our analysis shows that marine and coastal economic sectors are impacting some of the most valuable ecological habitats of the Mediterranean, that should be better protected to enable them to thrive.

The next decade must be set on a different path: the Blue Recovery is done by economic sectors that put the protection and rebuilding of the sea among their main objectives.

For this to happen, economic activities must be avoided or substantially regulated in marine protected areas and must be sustainably planned and managed in the rest of the shared sea space.



SSF account for around 80% of the Mediterranean fleet.
Mediterranean fisheries are facing serious challenges due to over-exploitation. About 80% of all assessed stocks are fished outside safe biological limits, catches are decreasing, and regional fleets are shrinking. This is threatening the survival of small-scale fishers and their families whose livelihoods and income depend on dwindling catches. Read More
Global shipping is expected to grow by 4% per year.
In line with the global expansion of seaborne trade, shipping activity in the Mediterranean is growing in terms of the number of routes, traffic intensity and size of ships. The Mediterranean already carries about 15% of global shipping. The increased capacity of the Suez Canal has doubled the number of cargo ships which pass through the Mediterranean with its continuous flow of noise and air pollution.The Mediterranean already carries about 15% of global shipping. The increased capacity of the Suez Canal has doubled the number of cargo ships which pass through the Mediterranean with its continuous flow of noise and gas emissions. Read More
Recreational fishing could account for more than 10% of all fish production in the Mediterranean.
Over the last 15 years, recreational fisheries have been developing rapidly in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, in line with the increasing numbers of tourists who are visiting its shores. The overall number of recreational fishers is still unknown. But in some Mediterranean places, this number has quadrupled in 20 years. Read More
More than 50% of the world’s superyachts are in Mediterranean marinas during the summer.
With more than 400,000 berths, the Mediterranean’s port facilities host one of the world’s largest recreational boating and large yacht fleets. Overlaps between the leisure boating sector and MPAs are having strong and potentially irreversible impacts. Read More
At least 10 MPAs and 60 Natura 2000 sites are known to shelter aquaculture farms in the Mediterranean.
In line with global trends, aquaculture already accounts for more than half of the Mediterranean’s total fishery output. The sector more than quadrupled in size between 1996-2016, and by 2030 projections say it will produce 62% of fish for human consumption. Read More
The development of the sector in the region is in its infancy: there are currently no OWFs in operation.
That’s going to change fast: forecasts show offshore wind energy is the region’s most promising source of future renewable power. However, from underwater noise pollution to collision with migratory birds, OWFs can have important impacts on biodiversity, and these should be avoided or mitigated as far as possible. Read More
Cruise passenger numbers in the Mediterranean have rocketed from 8.7 million to 30 million in a decade.
The Mediterranean is the world’s leading destination for coastal and maritime tourism, attracting about one third of all global visitors. Until early 2020 and before the COVID crisis, the cruise sector was on the rise, as was the overall coastal and maritime tourism sector: in terms of gross added value and employment it was the biggest sector in the tourism industry. Read More

The ocean offers vital nature-based solutions, both in mitigating carbon emissions and adapting to the changes we’re already beginning to experience. It’s time to stop thinking of the ocean solely as a victim of global heating, and start treating it as a powerful part of the solution.

Better ocean governance and management are not only crucial to ensure our maritime resources are healthy and safe, they also make economic sense. Ecosystem-based maritime spatial planning (MSP) must bring environmental and socio-economic factors together into a holistic vision of sustainable growth.

It’s also important to recognise that maritime and land-based economies are interlinked, and that many of the threats facing the Mediterranean  – including plastic pollution and nutrient run-off  – originate on land. These too must be addressed by governments and other authorities: a sustainable blue economy depends on a sustainable green one.
The creation of a truly sustainable blue economy would be one of the most important steps our society could take as we rebuild the future of the region.
© Paolo Guglielmi / WWF Mediterranean