The ecosystem approach and marine conservation are high on the Mediterranean regional agenda as seen through recent targeted data calls and directives.
For the EU Member States, obligations arising from the Habitats Directive (e.g.for the protection of regional priority habitats) and the recent Marine StrategyFramework Directive (e.g. for the achievement of GEnS) are significant additional drivers for mapping the status, as well as the extent and frequency of pressures acting on predominant and sensitive habitats.
Within the framework of the DG MARE MEDISEH Mediterranean Sensitive Habitats project and the MAREA Consortium, regional experts have worked together to review and map a) existing marine NATURA 2000 and other MPAs,b) MPA network proposals, and c) Mediterranean Fishery Restricted Areas (FRAs). You can find the information here.
A new scientific study on Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean has been published in Plos One.
In the article “Large-Scale Assessment of Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas Effects on Fish Assemblages” the researchers found that the level of protection greatly affected the fish communities. No-take MPAs showed the greatest recovery of fish communities, with recovery in intermediate-protection MPAs closer to that of unprotected areas. Furthermore, the numbers and total mass of apex predators, carnivores and detritivores were greater in no-take MPAs, compared with the other areas.
The estimated total weight of the fish per square metre of seabed and the numbers of different species were also significantly greater in the no-take MPAs compared with the other areas. In no-take zones, the average weight was approximately 84 g/m2 , compared with around 30 g/m2 in areas with intermediate protection and 10 g/m2 in non-enforced MPAs and unprotected areas.
Importantly, highly protected MPAs contained much greater densities of commercially valuable fish.The results showed that the numbers of invasive species or southern Mediterranean fish that thrive in warmer waters were similar in both MPAs and unprotected areas. Although this means that it is likely that MPAs do not protect against these threats, it also shows that the extra biodiversity found in MPAs was not driven by invasive or warm-water fish.
These results reinforce other studies of single MPAs, which have shown that highly protected areas offer the best chance for fish stocks and entire ecosystems to recover in the Mediterranean Sea.
In the context of the last Common Fisheries Policy reform the European Parliament produce the report “Establishment of fish stock recovery areas” that examines a proposal to establish a network of ‘fish stock recovery areas’ to cover 10-20% of territorial seas of EU Member States.
Such protected areas in Europe and elsewhere have produced rapid and long-lasting recovery of many commercially important species. They have also benefited surrounding fisheries through spillover and export of offspring from protected stocks. Fish stock recovery areas could make a major contribution to improving the status and productivity of fisheries, as well as safeguarding marine biodiversity.
The complexity of the Mediterranean multispecies fisheries coupled with traditional management tools based on technical measures and fishing capacity control, have mostly failed to ensure the long-term viability of fish populations or the conservation of important habitats.
Evidence shows that no-take areas have produced rapid and long-lasting recovery of many commercially important species. They have also benefitted surrounding fisheries through spillover and export of offspring from protected stock. In this context, fish stock recovery areas -or no-take marine protected areas- can function as a hedge against the deep rooted limitations of traditional fisheries management and contribute to the recovery of the Mediterranean depleted stocks, as well as setting positive management precedents.