MEDITERRANEAN MARINE INITIATIVE
BULLETIN APRIL 2018
Blue is the new green: how to avoid bankrupting the ocean
Although it covers over 70% of the earth's surface, it has been a struggle to connect the blue world with the agenda of politicians, businesses and communities. Our oceans and seas are too vast and not well enough known to be seen as a manageable economic investment or recognised as fragile ecosystems sensitive to our activities.
Thankfully, things are changing. People are reacting to the appalling images of marine animals strangled by plastic bags. The Economist’s Ocean Summit held in Mexico last month was just the latest in a series of top-level gatherings where politicians, businesses and investors have discussed how to invest in the ocean and – most importantly – how to invest in the ocean's health.
The planet's blue capital is enormous but limited and in decline. The natural assets of the Mediterranean Sea are valued at 5.6 trillion USD, making it the 5th largest economy in the region. However, unless we urgently replenish fish stocks, tackle pollution and set smart rules on how to use and maintain this common capital, we could see this change rapidly. Our April Bulletin provides some good examples of how the Mediterranean's blue economy can contribute to the well-being of people and nature, and how it can be misused.
As we point out in the new WWF report on climate change, half of Mediterranean species could be lost as a result of the effects of climate change; meanwhile Greece and Italy are irresponsibly allowing oil and gas exploration in pristine marine areas instead of investing in ecotourism benefitting local communities and nature.
Demonstrating the value of a sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean will be our priority for 2018. Starting from the 14 Principles recently developed by WWF and partners, we will work together with public and private institutions and key businesses to put the Mediterranean on a new pathway towards economic, social and environmental prosperity. It won’t be smooth sailing but we count on visionary and innovative players to join our crew.
Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director, Mediterranean Marine Initiative
The Mediterranean is home to an immense variety of animal and plant species that find in this unique region a favourable mild climate. Due to the dramatic effects of climate change, however, up to half of the region's biodiversity could face extinction by the turn of the century, says a new WWF report.
Increasing sea and coastal temperatures and longer periods of drought are expected to put enormous stress on people as well as wildlife, disrupting and severely threatening the survival of iconic marine species like marine turtles, cetaceans, bluefin tuna and sharks.
The Greek government has recently given the green light to new hydrocarbon research and extraction in some of the most iconic and ecologically sensitive marine and coastal areas of the country. This includes the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, protected by EU law as a Natura 2000 site for the presence of species like sperm whales and migratory birds. In the wake of the economic crisis, cash-strapped Greece has promoted oil and gas as the spearhead of its economic recovery strategy, despite their contribution to climate change and challenge to the sustainable development of local economies. Read more.
Italy too is turning into a “tax haven for oil companies”, as WWF has pointed out. The Italian Council of State recently decided to approve new hydrocarbon exploration in the Adriatic Sea, providing subsidies and fiscal benefits to oil companies. Such activities could put at risk the natural heritage of the Adriatic that hosts 112 Italian protected areas, including marine areas, and 65 Natura 2000 sites. Read more.
By Mauro Randone, WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative, partner of the EU-funded project DestiMED to promote ecotourism in the region.
"We don’t sell our houses here!”, said Antonis, the manager of the Samaria Gorge National Park in Crete, while he was proudly showing me the beauties of his hometown Chania and the house he was renting to a friend. I remarked that while now in winter we were almost alone in admiring Chania’s magnificent Venetian Harbor, wonderful beaches and stunning natural gorges, during the summer finding a good buyer among the 4 million tourists that flood the coasts of Crete would not be a problem. Yet Antonis explained to me that the house was the only remaining connection his son would have with this territory, and no money could buy it!
Gyaros will be the first marine protected area in Greece with a set of conservation and sustainable development measures designed and proposed by a co-management committee. This was the result of the CYCLADES LIFE project led by WWF-Greece and implemented with a number of partners. The Consortium – the co-management committee of 15 stakeholders – includes central and local government officials, entrepreneurs, professional fishermen, NGOs and scientists. At the project's closing meeting in Syros (the capital of the Cyclades) in March the Consortium confirmed its commitment to continue working for the conservation and sustainable development of this tiny uninhabited island situated at the heart of the Aegean that is home to the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. The next step is for the Consortium to be formally designated as a key advisory structure to the new Management Authority of the whole Cyclades protected areas authority.
From Lisbon to Athens, from Istanbul to Tunis, more than 1000 cities and municipalities across the Mediterranean switched off their lights for #EarthHour on Saturday 24 March at 8.30pm, joining the world's largest event to fight climate change.
Read more. #Connect2Earth