For thousands of years, the seas and oceans represented infinite space, giving the feeling that humanity might be free of constraints and limitations. The illusion lasted until the middle of the 20th century, when increasingly intensive fishing began to degrade global fish stocks. Since then, many more activities have developed in coastal areas and on the open sea, competing for the same resources and the same spaces.

The Mediterranean Sea is experiencing an unprecedented ‘Blue Gold Rush’. And despite accounting for only 1% of the oceans, it is already one of the busiest and most developed in the world. Activities such as shipping have rapidly intensified, cruise tourism has been growing swiftly, and new sectors such as offshore wind energy and marine mining have recently begun developing. Competition for maritime space and resources has never been higher.

On the other hand, the Mediterranean Sea hosts a multitude of areas of important ecological value which deliver a wide range of ecosystem services and are rich in biodiversity. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the best known and most effective tool developed so far to protect those ecosystems. 

It’s clear that serious action needs to be taken on many fronts to prevent ecological collapse while promoting sustainable blue economy for future generations. Riparian states have committed to achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) for Mediterranean waters, but are also keen to support the continuing expansion of their marine economies. 

MSP authorities face a difficult balancing act, while MPA managers are wondering which marine uses they can allow inside the MPAs without weakening the conservation value of their protected areas.

This is where the PHAROS4MPAs project is trying to help, providing a set of practical recommendations for regional stakeholders on how the environmental impacts of 7 sectors can be prevented or minimized. 

Aquaculture sector

Cruise sector

Leisure boating sector

Maritime traffic sector

Offshore wind farms sector

Recreational fisheries sector

Small Scale Fisheries sector

Catherine Piante (WWF), project manager of the Pharos4MPA project, will participate in the upcoming experience sharing workshop of the MedPAN network focusing on the management of highly mobile species. She will lead a session on Wednesday 13 November at 16:00 aiming to review and discuss how national and international regulatory tools can help address the impacts of shipping and other sectors on highly mobile species in MPAs or in their vicinity. Drop by in you are around!