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WWF launches 5-month sailing journey to unveil Mediterranean marine treasures and free them from ghost gear

After a year of forced pause due to the pandemic, the Blue Panda, WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative sailboat, is ready to set sail for a five-month journey across six of the most iconic Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of the Mediterranean to free them from threatening ghost gear. Together with local residents and visitors we will explore the natural, social and cultural value of these unique marine sites.

As the new summer holiday season begins, WWF’s Blue Panda will take people on a tour to discover six of the Mediterranean’s most important MPAs, which are located close to well-known tourist destinations and that are too often threatened by mass tourism, unsustainable fishing and other human activities. From June to November, the Blue Panda will sail to these areas to show the unique marine habitats and species they host, and work with fishers, divers and MPA managers to free these sites from threatening ghost gear.

Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative said: 
“The campaign this year intends to showcase the importance of Marine Protected Areas as a key tool to achieve ocean protection. The Mediterranean requires urgent action if we want to continue to thrive from the benefits it provides. Ghost gear is a serious threat, continuously and cruelly killing whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks, and damaging vital ocean habitats. WWF’s Blue Panda will be reaching MPAs close to well-known holiday destinations where it will be joined by a diversity of actors and people towards a common call: protecting at least 30% of the Mediterranean Sea. ”

WWF ’s Blue Panda 2021 journey to “Protect Mediterranean Treasures” will start on 28 June along the rugged coastline and steep seabed of the Portofino MPA in Liguria (Italy). It will continue until November, reaching other MPAs in Zakynthos (Greece), Kas Kekova (Turkey), Cap Corse (France), Tabarka (Tunisia) and Tagomago (Spain). In September, the Blue Panda will also pay a visit to policy makers and scientists attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille to call on them to support the protection of at least 30% of the Mediterranean Sea.


As reported by WWF, today only a tiny 1.27% of the Mediterranean is covered by well managed MPAs, while the rest is left open to unsustainable exploitation that is undermining the health of our sea and its ability to fight the dramatic effects of climate change. 

WWF is therefore calling on Mediteranean governments to work together to put at least 30% of the Mediterranean under effective protection (#30by30). This measure would secure  marine ecosystems and key commercial fish stocks, increase the sea’s resilience to climate change and sustain the lives and economies of millions of people living in the region.

The WWF Blue Panda was launched by WWF in 2019 to connect people to the beauty of the Mediterranean marine environment and its wildlife and to bring forward a call for action against the most pressing threats, like plastic pollution, overfishing and unsustainable mass tourism. The 2021 Blue Panda Journey can be followed with live blogs, videos and updates from WWF MMI website and IG channel, and by following #30by30 and #BluePanda.

For more information: 
Stefania Campogianni, WWF MMI Communications Manager, scampogianni@wwfmedpo.org, +39 346 3873237
Saila Huusko, Blue Panda Communications Expert, bluepandacomms@wwfmedpo.org

If you are interested in joining the Blue Panda at one of its stops to know more about the MPAs and the work WWF is doing with local stakeholders to map and retrieve ghost gear and improve protection, we will be happy to host you on board for 1 or more days. Please contact our media team.

WWF Blue Panda Journey 2021