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Marine conservation challenges and opportunities: the Mediterranean case-study


In the Mediterranean Sea socio-economic drivers may accelerate the process of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) declarations. Despite the challenges, the EEZ declarations may provide important opportunities for leveraging change to national policy towards the development of large-scale conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity in this zone. Starting from this consideration, the article uses the Mediterranean Sea as a case-study in order to identify challenges and concerns for marine conservation in EEZs. Based on the results of the challenges analysis, opportunities and related suggestions have been identified in order to overcome bottlenecks and to maximize the potential of the development of large-scale marine conservation initiatives within an ecosystem-based marine spatial management approach.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Cross-border cooperation
Ecosystem-based approach
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Which are the challenges and concerns for EEZ- scale marine conservation in the Mediterranean basin?
  • Which are the marine conservation opportunities for EEZ in the Mediterranean basin?

Implementation Context

The analysis of marine conservation challenges and identification of related opportunities in the Mediterranean Sea is described in the article “Katsanevakis S, Levin N, Coll M, Giakoumi S, Shkedi D, Mackelworth P, Levy R, Velegrakis A, Koutsoubas D, Caric H, Brokovich E, Ozturk B, Kark S, 2015. Marine conservation challenges in an era of economic crisis and geopolitical instability: The Mediterranean Sea case. Marine Policy 51: 31-39.” The Mediterranean Sea is used as a case-study for the analysis of EEZ-scale through an ecosystem-based marine spatial management approach and within a complex geopolitical and environmental context.

Aspects / Objectives

The main objective of the article used to develop the practice is the analysis of challenges and identification of suggestions to exploit opportunities for marine conservation in Mediterranean EEZs.


The identification of marine conservation opportunities starts from a specific analysis of challenges and concerns, acting as bottlenecks, detected for the Mediterranean basin. The analysis takes into account environmental, economic and governance aspects of marine conservation, as well as considerations on transboundary cooperation in marine conservation planning. Main identified challenges for marine conservation are: (i) data and knowledge gaps, (ii) challenges related to monitoring, surveillance and enforcement, (iii) increased pollution risks from hydrocarbon exploitation, (Iv) environmental and conservation issues lower in the agendas, and (v) lack of sufficient funding for conservation.

Main Outputs / Results

Suggestions for maximizing marine conservation opportunities in the Mediterranean, also taking advantage from EEZ declaration, are the main relevant results for the article the practice is developed from. They include the following items:

  • Considerations for EEZ conservation planning - Conservation planning within EEZs should be based on the same fundamental principles as planning in territorial waters. Accounting for stakeholder involvement, opportunity costs, connectivity among protected areas, and complementarity of priority areas all remain important aspects in order to achieve the most efficient conservation outcome. The implementation of decision–support tools is encouraged for zoning and actively managing possible threats affecting an area.
  • Using surrogates to fill data gaps - Several knowledge gaps exist, especially due to the time consuming and expensive sampling effort needed to investigate deep sea area. In absence of biodiversity data, the use of geomorphological, physical, and chemical oceanographic features as surrogates for biological data has become a common practice to be encouraged, both in coastal and deep-sea ecosystems.
  • Developing free-access homogeneous database - Data have to be accessible, harmonized, standardized and checked for quality, in order to be used for conservation planning. Development of data standards and protocols is therefore encouraged to improve interoperability. In the past few years, several initiatives have emerged that gather data and make them available on line through free-access databases.
  • Transboundary collaboration - Transnational collaboration and coordination is considered as a key factor in addressing EEZ-scale conservation issues. Regional instruments as the Barcelona Convention and the European environmental legislation can help the development of conservation planning at multi-country scale or at Mediterranean scale.
  • Joint management zones and dispute settlement - Joint management zones can facilitate faster cooperation among riparian states. A joint management zone can be a peaceful option for dispute settlement where parties do not fully agree on delimitation. A multinational management of large marine ecosystem, already experimented in other contexts, is presented as an opportunity to overcome these difficulties.
  • Improving monitoring and surveillance - Securing appropriate monitoring and surveillance within EEZs is a prerequisite for successfully implementing conservation actions. Technological developments and collaboration among different organizations can improve monitoring, research and surveillance of less accessible and under-explored marine areas.
  • Creation of a conservation fund - Regionally coordinated conservation financing is proposed as a mean to lead to greater efficiencies in implementing new mechanisms and in using the limited conservation funds.

The ecologically or biologically significant areas(EBSA) proposed in the Mediterranean Sea(adapted from UNEP-MAP RAC/SPA) and consensus areas of high conservation value as identified in [Micheli et al., 2013[1]] based on the overlap among proposed conservation plans (the overlap of at least 5plans is shown). Source: Katsanevakis S, Levin N, Coll M, Giakoumi S, Shkedi D, Mackelworth P, Levy R, Velegrakis A, Koutsoubas D, Caric H, Brokovich E, Ozturk B, Kark S, 2015. Marine conservation challenges in an era of economic crisis and geopolitical instability: The Mediterranean Sea case. Marine Policy 51: 31-39.


According to the article conclusions “the suggestions provided, regarding conservation opportunities and overcoming difficulties are not restricted to the countries of the Mediterranean Sea but are likely applicable to many regions all over the globe. Collaboration is a fundamental concept for the successful management and conservation of shared resources between states. In many instances the need for transboundary coordination will require adjacent states to develop structures to resolve disputes and take forward economic opportunities for the benefit of all parties”.

Contact Person

Stelios Katsanevakis
Corresponding author
University of the Aegean, Department of Marine Sciences


[1] Micheli F, Levin N, Giakoumi S, Katsanevakis S, Abdulla A, et al. Setting priorities for regional conservation planning in the Mediterranean Sea. PLoS One 2013;8(4):e59038.