The 19th COP of the Barcelona Convention, held in Athens from 9 to 12 February 2016 resulted in important declarations and decisions for Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas. Several members and network partners were present to contribute to exchanges including Khalil Attia and Souha El Asmi from the RAC / SPA, Antonio Troya and Alain Jeudy from IUCN Mediterranean, Purificació Canals, from the MedPAN network, or Catherine Piante from WWF France who presented during a side- event, the results of the MedTrends project that mapped the impacts of future economic development in the Mediterranean on the marine environment.
Roadmap for achieving Aichi Target 11
The 150 delegates present, representing 21 Mediterranean countries and the European Union, all Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, notably approved the Roadmap for a comprehensive and coherent network of well-managed MPAs to achieve Aichi objective 11 in the Mediterranean. The Roadmap is based on the document prepared by all participants in the 2012 Forum of Mediterranean MPAs that aimed to help define the steps that Mediterranean States, relevant organisations and other actors might individually and / or jointly undertake at national and Mediterranean level, in order to achieve by 2020, the objectives set for the network of MPAs in the Mediterranean. The Roadmap has, since 2012, followed an official course in view of its adoption by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention. RAC/SPA Focal Points reviewed the draft Roadmap during their 12th meeting in May 2015 and the Mediterranean Action Plan Focal Points approved it in October 2015. Today the COP-approved Roadmap thus supports Mediterranean countries official commitments.
Mediterranean MPAs trust fund
The creation of the trust fund for Mediterranean MPAs supported by Monaco, Tunisia and France and already endowed by Monaco is also “saluted” in the Athens Declaration that was adopted upon closing of the high-level ministerial meeting held after the COP19 working sessions.
Another important decision related to Marine Protected Areas covers the inscription of a new MPA on the List of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI). Indeed, the National Marine Park of Karaburun-Sazan in Albania, established in 2010, is now the 34th SPAMI in the region. It was also required that the RAC / SPA would proceed in 2017, in collaboration with the relevant authorities in Algeria and Italy, to the evaluation of SPAMIs of the Banc des Kabyles, Habibas Islands and of Portofino. The SPAMI List was established in 2001 (Monaco Declaration) to promote cooperation in the management and conservation of the natural environment and the protection of endangered species and their habitats. Furthermore the areas included in the SPAMI List are an example and role model for the protection of the natural heritage of the region.
Action plans for the conservation of endangered species and their habitats
COP 19 also helped to validate and adopt updates to three Action Plans related to the protection of Mediterranean species and habitats. The Action Plan for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea, the Action plan for the conservation of Coralligenous and other bio-construction in the Mediterranean and the Action plan concerning species introductions and invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea were thus updated. These Action Plans are part of a battery of 9 action plans adopted at the Mediterranean level to guide the efforts of neighboring countries and international organisations in the conservation of threatened or endangered species and the habitats that host them. In this context, it is expected that the Mediterranean Action Plan Secretariat and the RAC / SPA work during the biennium 2016-2017 period on the update of the Action Plan for the Conservation of Bird Species listed in Annex II of the SPA / BD Protocol, and updating the list of reference of marine and coastal habitat types in the Mediterranean.
Medium-term strategy of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP)
The 2016-2021 medium-term strategy of the Mediterranean Action Plan in preparation for several months was also discussed and adopted at the meeting. This strategy has over time been enriched by the process that led in particular to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the UN Summit in September 2015, the commitments made at climate change COP in December 2015 in Paris, the new 2016-2025Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, the Regional Framework for Climate Change Adaptation for Mediterranean Coastal and Marine Protected Areas, or other MAP strategic documents of the WFP.
MOU with ACCOBAMS
During the meeting, UNEP / MAP has signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the secretariats of the Convention on the Black Sea and ACCOBAMS. Regarding ACCOBAMS, the two institutions have agreed to cooperate in the collection and evaluation of information related to the conservation of cetaceans, and the identification, protection and management of marine areas of particular importance for these species and promote the ecosystem approach to the conservation of the marine environment and Mediterranean ecosystems. The two parties also agreed to develop awareness-raising and capacity building activities.
The Athens Declaration concluded this 19th Meeting of the Parties. In this declaration, Mediterranean Ministers pledged to implement the instruments, programmes, action plans and guidelines adopted at Barcelona Convention CoP19 -to prevent pollution from maritime transport, marine exploration, and land-based activities, protect biodiversity, manage coastal zones, and increase the resilience of the Mediterranean to the impacts of climate change- as crucial means for the achievement of the objectives of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols..
This COP 19 coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Mediterranean Action Plan, which is one of the world most advanced legal systems for the protection of the marine and coastal environment. This first agreement under the auspices of the regional seas of the United Nations Environment Programme served as a model for the following 12 cooperation frameworks of regional seas around the world. Provided by Turkey since 2013, the presidency of the COP was transferred to Greece. COP20 will take place in 2018.