OCEANA UNVEILS MEDNET Published:  23 February, 2011

Oceana has unveiled Oceana MedNet, the first comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) for the Mediterranean that details specific locations.

The proposal includes 100 sites distributed throughout the basin, covering an extension of over 200,000 km2. By adding this area to the existing MPAs, 12% of the Mediterranean would be protected, exceeding the minimum established by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Despite being considered one of the planet’s most important areas for marine biodiversity, the Mediterranean (2,500,000km2) is practically in the same state as the rest of the world’s seas and currently only 4% of its area is protected.

This protection is concentrated in the coastal area (except for the Sanctuary in the Ligurian Sea 87,500km2) and the basin’s northern shore, leaving the high seas and the southern shore completely unprotected. Thus, the current network of MPAs is neither representative nor coherent.

The proposal presented covers these gaps. The sites for Oceana MedNet were selected systematically using the most important seamounts as reference points, following Oceana’s line of research. The network was completed with the addition of other areas considered especially important in the Mediterranean due to exclusivity, productivity, vulnerability, biodiversity or presence of endangered or threatened species, according to CBD criteria.

“Oceana MedNet is an example of how current knowledge can lead to the creation of an effective network of Marine Protected Areas”, explains Ricardo Aguilar, director of research for Oceana Europe. “The destruction of the oceans is occurring faster than advances are being made in scientific research and, if we wait until we have detailed biological data about each site, it will be too late. On the other hand, by applying the precautionary principle, we can protect the most important areas, because we currently have knowledge about the geological and oceanographic characteristics that generate habitats with increased biodiversity or vulnerability.”

Thus, the proposal presented includes a wide variety of sites, such as seamounts, banks, canyons, slopes, trenches, ridges, mud volcanoes, gas seeps, carbonate mounts, etc. Although these habitats are less well-known than seagrass beds or coral reefs, they are equally important. The CBD considers that the proposed sites are important enough from a biological and ecological perspective, and that they require effective protection.

Apart from including a wide variety of areas, Oceana MedNet also includes extensive areas (with a minimum of 200km2 and a maximum of 15,200km2). In addition, planning for Oceana MedNet also takes into account main currents and gyres, in order to potentially and effectively connect the different areas.

To date, different initiatives have been developed regionally to contribute to the protection of the Mediterranean Sea and its resources. However, these proposals include extensive areas lacking in specific geographic details and, in some cases, are biased in favor of the pelagic environment.