According to the WWF study, "Mediterranean Marine Gap Analysis", the three major threats to the Mediterranean sea as a whole, and in particular these 13 important sites, are uncontrolled coastal construction, pollution from industries and intensive agriculture and oil spills, and over-fishing. As part of a call to all the governments concerned to ensure the protection and efficient management of these sites, WWF recommended that coastal trawling from 0 to 50 m of depth (where 80 % of marine biodiversity is found) be banned and enforced throughout the Mediterranean, that coastal construction in any of these 13 areas be prohibited, and for international pollution legislation to be applied across the board in the Mediterranean.
"The Mediterranean, the oldest cradle of European civilisation, is also the region with the highest number of endemic species in the world, after tropical regions. These 13 areas should be absolutely protected if we want to save the Mediterranean's unique heritage," said Paolo Guglielmi, Marine Officer, WWF Mediterranean Programme Office.
The study shows that 14% of the Mediterranean coast is already heavily damaged - some areas are so degraded that they can be classified as "lost". They include the Italian Adriatic coast, the coast between Syria and the mouth of the Nile, the coast which links the mouth of the Rhône in France to Spain, and the Spanish coast from Barcelona to Valence. Currently less than one percent of the coastal Mediterranean sea is protected. The most pristine of the sites highlighted by the study are the Sirte and Cirenaic coasts in Libya, the Aegean sea, and Turkey's Cilician coast. However, all could easily join the ranks of the "lost" without the proper protective measures.
The study also concluded that there are three major areas of importance for threatened species: the Aegean sea and the Turkish Mediterranean coast for monk seals and sea turtles, and the Sardo-Corso-Liguro-Provençal Basin for dolphins and whales.
The method used for the study has been applied on land in the past, but never before in the marine environment. In this instance, it assessed the biodiversity of the sea floor, important species, and also major threats like pollution "hot spots", major harbours and large coastal cities. In this way, the WWF study was able to calculate the areas of greatest biological richness that are most threatened.
"This tool will be a key instrument for the future work of institutional bodies to drive Mediterranean nations to increase the protection of their coasts." said Lucien Chabason, Coordinator of the MAP (Mediterranean Action Plan) at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
For further information:
Anne Rémy tel: +39 06 844 97 424/417, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Shaleen Russell tel: +41 22 364 9553, email: email@example.com
NOTES TO EDITORS
Background information, fact sheets on each area, maps and pictures are available on www.panda.org. B-Roll is also available on request
The 13 areas identified for urgent protection are: Alboran sea (Spain, Morocco, Algeria); Balearic Islands (Spain); Liguro-Provençal coast (France, Italy, Monaco); Corso-Sardinian coast (France, Italy); Southern Tyrrhenian coast (Italy); Dalmatian coast (Croatia); Eastern Ionian coast and islands (Albania, Greece); Aegean sea (Greece, Turkey) and Anatolya coast (Turkey); Cilician coast (Turkey) and Cyprus Island coast; Cyrenaica (Lybia); Gulf of Sirte (Libya); Gulf of Gabes (Tunisia); Algero-Tunisian coast (Algeria, Tunisia).
Within these areas, WWF has selected sites of smaller size for focusing its conservation efforts. Those sites are located in : Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.