The Mediterranean Sea accounts for only 1% of the world’s ocean surface but accounts for 20% of the world’s marine production. However, this wealth depends on a heritage that is quickly degrading. This is the alarming state that the WWF draws up ahead of the “Our Ocean” conference (1) organised in Malta by the European Union starting tomorrow 5 October.

Along its 46,000km coastline, the Mediterranean Sea supports around 150 million people. The Mediterranean Sea plays a fundamental role in the region’s economy but the sea’s underlying natural asset base—which supports much of the economy and community wellbeing—is eroding. This is what a Reviving the Economy of the Mediterranean Sea: Actions for a sustainable future, a report published this week by WWF and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) unveils.

The report maps the contribution of the sea to the region in new ways and finds that the overall value of the Mediterranean’s natural assets is at least US$5.6 trillion. This value draws on assets including productive coastlines, fisheries and seagrass. The sea’s annual estimated economic output is at least US$450 billion.

The value of the Mediterranean ©WWF
The value of the Mediterranean ©WWF

If the Mediterranean Sea was its own economy, it would be the fifth largest in the region—bigger than most of the region’s national economies—generating about as much annual economic output as Algeria, Greece and Morocco combined.

The report also reveals, however, that many principal assets in the Mediterranean Sea are declining because of unsustainable exploitation and that the use of these resources is accelerating. The report focuses on the fisheries sector and the rapidly growing tourism industry and shows that the health of the Mediterranean Sea is at a turning point.

Tourism is the greatest contributor to the region’s economies, accounting for 11% of Mediterranean countries’ cumulative gross domestic product (GDP). However, the current mass tourism model—which often involves aggressive coastal development, excessive water and energy consumption and unsustainable management of solid waste and sewage—has degraded both the marine and the coastal environment. Tourism, according to the report, represents more than 90% of the annual ocean-based economic output of the Mediterranean. A predicted growth in tourism will lead to potential conflicts for the use of space in coastal areas.

The Mediterranean fisheries sector, another key contributor to the region’s economy, has been in a deepening crisis in recent years. It still has an estimated collective worth of over US$3 billion and directly employs more than 180,000 people.

The report sets 6 priorities to achieve a sustainable future for the Mediterranean:

  • Implement integrated and ecosystem-based ocean planning and management
  • Adopt a sustainable blue economy approach
  • Achieve climate-resilient and carbon-neutral economies
  • Unlock the productive potential of natural assets through public and private financing
  • Reduce the footprint of mass tourism and pursue more sustainable tourism models
  • Ensure the sustainability of the fishing sector

“This new analysis adds considerable weight to the case for conservation to be an even higher priority for Mediterranean leaders. We have seen good commitments in the past but an objective analysis shows that we are running out of time and that we need action on a much greater scale and urgency if we are to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for the Mediterranean” said Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF-Greece.

“Developing a strong and sustainable Blue Economy for the Mediterranean region will greatly depend on keeping our sea, coastlines, and marine ecosystems healthy, and where possible restoring degraded ecosystems. We cannot continue to erode the very assets that Mediterranean cultures and economies depend on.” Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
, said, “With this analysis, no one can be in any doubt about the importance of carefully managing the sea assets that underpin so much of the Mediterranean economy. A prudent economic approach would see strong conservation actions rolled out across the region to secure its natural assets, otherwise the region’s economic foundations could be seriously threatened.” Nicolas Kachaner, BCG Partner and Managing Director,

”We are seeing many fish populations, coastal areas and ocean ecosystems coming under immense pressure around the world and in important regions like the Mediterranean.  We also are witnessing an unprecedented focus on the ocean, and leaders in the Mediterranean and beyond can seize this moment to commit to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the global climate agreement of 2015. There is no time to lose.” adds John Tanzer, Leader for Oceans at WWF.

  1. The “Our ocean conference” is a high level event started as an initiative of US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014 and hosted this year by the European Union in Malta. It takes place from 5 to 6 October. Top government representatives including Foreign and Environment Ministers, businesses and NGOs will discuss the future of ocean use and sustainability. WWF is hosting a side event to present the key findings of the report. MedPAN who has been invited to attend the conference will be present.

For media enquiries and information, please contact at WWF: Stefania Campogianni and Maud Busuttil.
Source: WWF