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Setting WWF priorities for the blue recovery of the Mediterranean Sea
© WWF Mediterranean /P. Guglielmi
Kaş-Kekova MPA, Antalya Province, Turkey.

WWF envisions a Mediterranean region with a thriving, sustainable and equitable blue economy. This entails a nature-positive approach based on clean energy production and shipping; sustainable fishing and aquaculture; protecting key habitats and seagrasses; and creating opportunities for small-scale producers to participate fully and fairly in accessing markets and achieving income security. 

The year 2020 was supposed to see a strong focus for our Mediterranean Marine Initiative on raising the ambition of governments toward a New Deal for Nature – a  new deal that would lead to a post-2020 framework that was fit for purpose to tackle the challenges of a sea that is in “burn out.”

However, in 2020 we could make little progress on this as our lives were uprooted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been a tough reminder of the (dangerously broken) links between nature and people; how human health is intimately connected with the health of our planet and how we manage the life-sustaining resources that biodiversity and ecosystems provide. We are now all looking to the future, to building back and better, to turning the challenges we faced over the past year into opportunities to reduce our footprint and design a world that can keep climate warming in check, protect the remaining wild places and avoid future pandemics. The use of stimulus packages will be key, and must strike the balance between creating jobs and safeguarding the environment. The new decade that has just started offers the right time frame for such changes to happen.

To support this process, WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative activities in 2021 and 2022 will be framed around four priorities:
  • A new deal for Mediterranean biodiversity

In 2021, Mediterranean countries will be called to adopt a new biodiversity framework through the Barcelona Convention. This opportunity calls for a more ambitious plan that will include measurable targets to safeguard Mediterranean marine biodiversity. In December, soon after the CBD COP15, the Barcelona Convention COP22 will convene to adopt this framework. WWF is working with civil society organizations and governments to shape this framework so it will be bold enough to support national efforts to achieve Good Environmental Status for the Mediterranean in synergy with relevant global and regional initiatives, including the European Union Marine Strategy Directive.
  • Empowered coastal communities

Many communities in the Mediterranean coastal area are strongly dependent on the ocean economy for food and income security, which in turn brings safety and education, among other benefits. Coastal communities have the highest potential to be catalysts for change, especially as a new generation of fishing and tourism entrepreneurs looks at the future through a lens of uncertainty shaped by overexploited resources and climate change. The expectation that WWF can deliver conservation and marine resource management is unrealistic. Rather, we will focus on partnerships and support to small-scale enterprises – particularly small-scale fishers – as they take a stronger and more central role in the management of resources. We stand together with small-scale fishers to ensure equitable and fair access to markets, to seize the opportunity to use available investments to reduce their ocean footprint, and to transition to a more sustainable way of fishing through the adoption of new technology.
  • Ecosystem protection that delivers benefits for people

Only 9.68% of the Mediterranean Sea is designated as under protection, of which only 1.27% is effectively protected. WWF supports the “30 by 30” target – to place 30% of the ocean under protection through marine protected areas (MPAs) or other spatial measures (OECM) by 2030. WWF developed a set of possible scenarios to achieve the 30% target and showed the incredible benefits this would produce for fish stocks. We will now work together with governments, NGOs and stakeholders to inform the establishment of spatial measures that can sustain the fishing sector and the local economies while increasing resilience to climate change. These areas will protect biodiversity, while advancing job security and economic prosperity that will provide a future to the almost half a million people living in the region.
  • Scaling up blue investments

Numerous Mediterranean policymakers, financial actors, institutional stakeholders and businesses show interest in the development of a sustainable blue economy. Many more are becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect the natural capital that the regional economy depends on, while harnessing the investment and development opportunities involved with making blue economy sectors more sustainable. To support this,, WWF is currently developing granular guidance for financial actors on how to direct financial flows to sustainable blue economy investments. We are developing a portfolio of bankable projects that can generate a financial return and have a positive impact on nature, people and climate. Our team is exploring opportunities for the implementation of innovative financial tools, such as blue bonds and blended finance mechanisms, aiming to attract the necessary capital from private investors that is required to build the blue economy of the region.
We have big challenges ahead and the stakes are high, but so are the opportunities. We will take all the help we can get and look forward to working collaboratively with partners. We will have zero tolerance for delayed commitments and lack of implementation. We feel a sense of urgency in seeing a more sustainable future become reality for the place we call home. The survival of the Mediterranean Sea will ultimately be the survival of its people.