Marine Protected Areas

The development of marine protected areas (MPAs) has lagged significantly behind terrestrial protected areas

The development of marine protected areas (MPAs) has lagged significantly behind terrestrial protected areas. This is fundamentally a result of the alien nature of the sea for humans and the perception of the ocean as limitless. With the development of technology that allowed us to “see” underwater, in particular SCUBA, we now understand that humans have a significant effect on marine species and marine habitats. At the tenth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity held in October 2010 the United Nations declared 2011 to 2020 as the decade of biodiversity. The Aichi biodiversity target envisioned that: “By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.” Target 11 referred specifically to protected areas: by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascapes. The 5th target of the Goal # 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources – reiterates this objective: By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information.

Many marine and coastal habitats are under growing pressures from human impact and the increased use of this environment requires developing integrated policies for its protection, such as the Ecosystem Based Management approach. Since 2001, the Blue World Institute has sought to integrate biological, social and economic research to provide comprehensive analyses of environmental problems to ensure appropriate conservation measures are defined and implemented to protect endangered species, ecosystems and the local communities that rely on them.

Natura 2000 sites for Croatian Coastal Dolphins

The need to fully apply the European Habitats and Birds Directives to the EU marine environment, especially with regards to the establishment of the Natura 2000 network, represents a key challenge for EU biodiversity policy. Within the European Union there are 316 Natura 2000 sites designated for the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Still the threat status for the bottlenose dolphin in European waters is considered to be data deficient under the IUCN guidelines.

Even before becoming a European Union member, Croatia has already implemented many mechanisms that transpose Habitats Directive provisions. However, marine sites lag behind the terrestrial sites in number, size and management capacity. Within Croatia, the threat status for the common bottlenose dolphin is endangered and there are six Natura 2000 sites designated:

  1. The waters of western Istria (Akvatorij zapadne Istre (HR5000032)) 76,278 ha;
  2. The waters of the Cres – Lošinj archipelago (Cres-Lošinj (HR3000161)) 52,562 ha;
  3. The waters south of the islands of the Molat archipelago (J. Molat-Dugi-Kornat-Murter-Pašman-Ugljan-Rivanj-Sestrunj-Molat (HR3000419)) 60,843 ha;
  4. The Kornati National Park (Nacionalni park Kornati (HR4000001)) 21,567 ha;
  5. The waters around the island of Vis (Viški akvatorij (HR3000469)) 51,888 ha;
  6. The waters of the Lastovo and Mljet Channel (Lastovski i Mljetski kanal (HR3000426)) 108,555 ha.

Total area covered by these six sites: 3,717 km2 considering that Croatian territorial waters 18,981km2 and internal waters 12,498 km2 (total of 31,479 km2) this is 11.8%. Appropriate management of these sites would fulfil the Aichi target 11 for Croatia; 10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved and equitably managed by 2020.

However, within these six sites there is little knowledge of the human induced threats to the populations and no management plans. There are two clear threats to cetaceans throughout this region, noise disturbance and physical pollution through marine litter and ghost fishing gear. It is important to address these issues, provide concrete conservation measures to reduce human impacts and aid the development of the governance process in the six recognised Natura 2000 sites. As the Lošinj Natura 2000 site has more data, it would provide an ideal pilot project to provide baseline information and develop innovative tools (GSM/VMS/AIS monitoring) for analysing the human induced threats and the development of management plans for Natura 2000 sites. Read more

Maritime (or Marine) Spatial Planning (MSP)

MSP is an integrated system to manage the use and users of the sea. Although the marine system is often considered to be an “unpeopled” space the near shore regions are anything but empty, especially in the summer season. Growing conflict between uses and users has resulted in some regions be over exploited, for example, in the Belgium North Sea, the total demand for marine space is at 264%, considering the legislative total claims of each industry.

MSP provides a framework of tools to manage marine users in time and space, integrating diverse data and information into a useable management tool. Often geographers use a Geographic Information System (GIS) such as ArcGIS or QGIS to visualise geospatial information in both marine and terrestrial environments to analyse use patterns. Even though GIS analysis can provide information to assist management often the use of Decision Support Tools (or Software) are used to help analyse use, add layers of costs and assist decision makers. Typically software such as Marxan or Zonation have been used to assist decision making, particularly for conservation planning.

MSP in the Adriatic Sea

The Blue World Institute undertakes research on large marine vertebrates some of which can act as indicators for a healthy environment. Our research includes localised boat based surveys but also Adriatic region wide aerial surveys. The observations from these surveys provide robust data that are visualised in GIS and can provide vital layers of data to aid decision-making. As part of the Adriatic+ Cross Border Cooperation project funded by EU IPA programme, the Blue World Institute  led a work package bringing together five projects from the Adriatic Sea to analyse the feasibility of developing a Decision Support Software for Maritime Spatial Planning in the Adriatic. MSP is an important field of interest for the Blue World Institute and we expect to develop more projects and ideas with our regional partners. Find more in our ADRIATIC+ page.