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© Giorgos Rigoutsos / WWF Greece
Appeal from the Med

At the COP21 summit in Paris almost 200 countries signed up to a new climate deal which could help keep global temperature rise under control. For the first time in global climate talks, reference was made to oceans and the need for healthy seas to limit global warming. Improved ocean governance is key to managing climate change. The Paris deal is not just about emissions reduction, but also about protecting vulnerable places and people — it's a big step towards a world free from the threat of climate change, and it's something WWF has worked towards for a long time.

SOS from the depths
Despite the freezing water and strong winds, WWF Greece's CYCLADES Life field team dived at Gyaros to deliver a wake-up call to world leaders: to keep our oceans healthy we need to minimize climate change. This was part of WWF's mobilization for Oceans Day at COP21.

"Every day is a new conservation story..."
Giuseppe Di Carlo © WWF Mediterranean

After my first year leading the Mediterranean Marine Initiative, I would like to thank our incredible team of people, and our partners, who on any given day are diving in biodiversity hotspots, talking to policy makers and crafting local solutions to fisheries management. We still have a long way to go — engaging new partners, addressing climate change and moving towards a blue economy. But we can celebrate new governance for the Pelagos Sanctuary, major wins for MPAs and Ramsar sites, continued attention towards bluefin tuna, and the recent ban in Italy on the renewal of land and offshore drilling concessions for oil and gas.

For many Mediterranean countries 2015 has been difficult but we hope for peace and that all governments will reflect upon the importance of their natural capital. The COP21 agreement — referred to as "the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era" — is a step in the right direction. For WWF, the MMI is an opportunity to chart a different route for the Mediterranean, a call for action for all those who care about the future of the Mediterranean Sea and the millions of livelihoods that depend on it.

I wish you all the best for the end of 2015 and for an exciting start to 2016!

5 new deep-sea MPAs in Portugal
The Portuguese government recently issued legislation on the creation of five new deep-sea MPAs in Portugal, for a total area of 355,471km2, as part of Portugal’s effort to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of 10% of coastal and marine areas conserved by 2020. This is great progress, and will ensure appropriate protection for species and habitats of enormous ecological importance in areas under Portuguese jurisdiction.
Blue shark (Prionace glauca) Pico Island, Azores, Portugal

© / FrancoBanfi / WWF

Albania: natural riches and old military settlements
Marinela Mitro explores the MPA with visitors. © WWF Mediterranean

In July 2015, Sazan Island, part of the Karaburun-Sazan National Marine Park, was opened to the public for the first time. Then, in November the Albanian Ministry for the Environment adopted the Park's first management plan. Developed by WWF and local partner INCA, it is the first protected area management plan developed using a participatory approach in Albania. The local community was actively engaged. INCA led the process, which has already served as a best practice for the development of a sustainable tourism management plan for the same area and will serve as a positive model for future planning processes in Albania.

Karaburun-Sazan facts and figures

Karaburun-Sazan, Albania's first and only MPA, was proclaimed a National Marine Park in 2010. It covers 12,428ha in total with a marine area stretching 1.9 km along the coastlines of Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island near the Bay of Vlora.
During Communism, Sazan island had a small village populated by army families, while the peninsula operated as one of the most important marine military bases in Albania. Public access to the area at that time was forbidden.
At the moment, tourism accounts for less than 5% of Albania’s GDP and the government is keen for this figure to grow.

Bluefin tuna recovery plan maintained
Northern bluefin tuna, Italy © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF

WWF congratulates ICCAT for continuing to follow scientific advice and maintain the bluefin tuna recovery plan unchanged, following their annual meeting in Malta in November. The lack of traceability for this species, though, is worrying, especially as it prevents the eradication of illegal fishing. WWF also raised an urgent call to improve the situation of the Mediterranean swordfish as no measures to help its recovery were agreed upon at the meeting. Read more.     

Fishermen join forces to reduce discards

WWF’s work on fisheries in the Mediterranean includes participation in the MINOUW project towards minimizing unwanted catches through the adoption of fishing practices that reduce discards. A major aspect of the project is the organization of training exchanges between fishermen from the Mediterranean. Last July an exchange in Viareggio, Italy, gathered participants from Tuscany, Catalonia, the Algarve and the Balearic Islands. This video, from the exchange, summarizes our work.

No renewal of drilling concessions in Italy

There has been a major achievement recently in Italy concerning oil and gas drilling. WWF Italy has worked for many years with other major national and international NGOs (including Greenpeace) and Italian regional governments, on an intensive advocacy and policy campaign against land and offshore oil and gas drilling. Thanks to this joint effort the Italian government recently ruled that there will be no renewal of land and offshore drilling concessions — even for decades. The government has revoked their decision to consider drilling as "strategic" (which in the past has allowed them to apply an over-simplified EIA procedure) and they have cancelled a 2012 amnesty on approval procedures for drilling activity within 12 nautical miles of the coastline. WWF celebrates these decisions as a vital step towards a more sustainable use of Mediterranean natural resources.

"The Mediterranean region has abundant renewable energy resources which currently account for only a limited share of the region’s primary energy supply. Renewables and enhanced energy efficiency contribute to the energy security goals of the EU in a much more effective and sustainable fashion than fossil fuels and are also in line with the EU’s recently formulated climate goals for 2030. Developing renewables and energy efficiency must become the overriding priority."

Marco Costantini, Marine Officer, WWF Italy

Renewed hope for the Pelagos Sanctuary
Pelagos Sanctuary © F. Bassemayouse / WWF France

After a period of sporadic governance and inactivity the Pelagos Sanctuary – which accounts for 4% of the 5.6% of marine area protected in the Mediterranean – has regained​ momentum. Important decisions were made at the 6th Conference of the Parties, in Monaco in December, which closed the Italian and opened the French presidency of the Sanctuary. WWF released a report on the status of the Sanctuary earlier this year (in Italian and French).

The decisions included:

  • more active participation of stakeholders
  • wider adoption of "high quality" whale watching label developed by ACCOBAMS
  • more local councils involved
  • stronger trilateral cooperation (Italy, France and Spain)
  • increased financial means
  • rotation of the presidency of the scientific committee
  • secretariat hosted in Monaco. 

MPA success stories
Lastovo, Croatia © Claudia Amico / WWF Mediterranean

WWF and MedPAN continue to lead on MPAs in the Mediterranean with funding, partnerships and addressing emerging issues such as sustainable tourism. At the recent MedPAN annual workshop, held in Sardinia, WWF‘s SEA-Med project delivered some of the best success stories, particularly the great work done by MPAs in Lastovo and Telascica, Croatia, through the WWF/Sunce partnership, and the work conducted by INCA in Albania. These case studies demonstrated the value of participatory planning for tourism and the need to strengthen public-private partnerships

New video on Mediterranean MPAs

Marine Protected Areas can be a winning card for sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean. WWF's stories of best practices from Mediterranean MPAs at this link.


Coordinating a large project at a national level is not easy. Despite her youth, Marinela Mitro handles the task with passion and the support of a talented and committed team. The mysterious Karaburun-Sazan MPA in Albania could not be in better hands.

How did you start your journey with WWF?
As a kid, I used to ask my parents about Karaburun Peninsula and Sazani Island, lying just in front of Vlora, my city. I was curious to know why they weren’t accessible to people, what was their history and what nature looked like over there. After getting my degree in Environmental Biology, I started volunteering at INCA (Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania), one of the most important environmental NGOs in my country. My experience, combined with my passion for nature and love for my hometown, convinced INCA that I was ready to be part of this WWF initiative. A dream come true!

What are your role and main activities for this MPA?
I coordinate the SEA-Med Project in Albania which focuses on the Karaburun-Sazan MPA, designing a sustainable tourism management plan for the protected area, promoting the site as a new tourist destination, establishing ecotourism activities and educating and empowering various groups with an interest in the area.
By working closely with the locals I have learned a lot not just about our wonderful natural heritage but also about the people themselves: their way of living, their attitudes and the challenges they face. This is why the SEA-Med project is not just a work assignment: for me it’s an opportunity to explore nature, learn about my people and guide them toward sustainable prosperity. I deeply love this area and want to keep working in it, and for it, in the future.
Marinela Mitro, national coordinator WWF SEA-Med Project in Albania 
© WWF Mediterranean
Marinela Mitro, national coordinator WWF SEA-Med Project in Albania
© WWF Mediterranean

What would you recommend to other young people who wish to follow your path?
I am glad that in recent years a lot of young people have become enthusiastic about nature and have a positive approach towards it. I’m so happy to have followed my passions and feel lucky to have a career connected to them. While job opportunities in Albania are limited, I still tell all young people who love nature to follow their dreams. But even if you become a doctor, economist or teacher you can still love nature and find other ways to be close to it — for instance by visiting our lovely MPA!