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What will global policies mean for the Mediterranean
© Istock/WWF Mediterranean
Protecting 30% of the Mediterranean

Ocean has dominated the international policy agenda during the first half of this year. Less than two months after the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework where 196 countries committed to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, and just before the landmark agreement on the High Sea Treaty, the ocean community met in Canada for the 5th International Marine Protected Area Congress (IMPAC5). This was a first opportunity for MPA managers, scientists, civil society and decision makers to discuss how the 30 by 30 target should be implemented, where and how new protected and conserved areas should be established to maximise impact, and what effect these would have on maritime sectors and key stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. 

One of the key lessons to be drawn for the Mediterranean – a small basin with a high concentration of biodiversity and human activities – is that policymakers need to ensure that they do not enter the race to reach the target without careful consideration. The quality of the network of protected and conserved areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) will be as important as the percentage of the sea to be put under protection. Several reports and scientific papers have already identified priority areas that will maximise conservation benefits. However, with only seven years left before 2030, there is a need to accelerate implementation, making sure that it is done in a participatory way.

Financiang small-scale fisheries sustainability
© Christian Mantuano/WWF
Financiang small-scale fisheries sustainability

Several discussions at IMPAC5 revolved around the need to develop innovative mechanisms to ensure sustainable and permanent funding for protected and conserved areas and OECMs, together with efforts to speed up the redirection of harmful subsidies towards conservation. An example of this is the new cycle of EU public fisheries development funds (EMFAF), that risk being used to increase fleet capacity, or gear catchability, at the cost of a mere apparent reduction in fishing effort. To avoid this, WWF will participate in the meetings of the EMFAF surveillance committee (i.e., when the national funding authorities inform the stakeholders about the criteria for the investments), to guarantee that these investments keep the fleet capacity in multi-annual plans balanced with stock productivity. Moreover, WWF will advocate for EMFAF funds to accelerate the establishment of Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs), so as to increase protection in fish spawning areas. Equally, the modernization of engines for effective and necessary de-carbonization of the fleet should not result in more powerful engines that allow fishers to catch more. All the more important will be to reconcile the fisheries with the conservation sectors. While most of the IMPAC5 conference side-events highlighted the need to improve fisheries regulations in marine protected areas, many also showed the positive stewardship role of small-scale fisheries in marine conservation, echoing the work WWF is doing across the Mediterranean. 

We would like to conclude this overview echoing the words that closed this year’s IMPAC5: “Martin Luther King did not start his speech by saying that he had a nightmare”. We believe that thanks to these recent high-level decisions, our dream of restoring the health of our ocean is still very much alive and requires all of us to turn it into reality.