Marine environment: the Mediterranean sea and its coasts
Safeguarding Mediterranean marine biodiversity
Currently, less than 1% of the Mediterranean Sea is protected.
We are working to establish marine and coastal protected areas to protect the most important regions for biodiversity. We promote fisheries management systems which do not adversely affect marine productivity. We also try to ensure that measures against pollution agreed in international conventions, such as the Barcelona Convention, are endorsed and implemented.
WWF Mediterranean works at a pan-Mediterranean level, and also focuses efforts on marine regions in Croatia , Libya , Morocco , Tunisia and Turkey.
Host to 18 species cetaceans...The Mediterranean hosts several endangered marine species:
- the monk seal (Monachus monachus), of which about 350 - 400 now survive in the world.
- the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the 100-million year old loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), which nest on Mediterranean beaches.
- 18 cetacean species, of which seven can be observed throughout the year: the pilot whale, fin whale, sperm whale, common dolphin, striped dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and the Risso's dolphin.
- the endemic sea-grass Posidonia oceanica , which plays a crucial role in coast protection by acting as a buffer to currents and waves.
The balance of life
The Mediterranean Sea intricately links humans and nature. The rocky sea bottoms anchor algae and invertebrates like corals, molluscs and crustaceans. They act as refuge, feeding and spawning grounds for many species of fish. These fish act as a source of food and/or livelihood for the 150 million resident population of the Mediterranean coasts.
The Mediterranean Sea is also an important commercial fishing ground. Of the 900 fish species found in the Mediterranean, 100 are commercially exploited. Some of these species have a high market value.
The spectacular coastal landscapes and mild Mediterranean climate attract enormous tourist activity from which local communities benefit too.
But these resources are not limitless, and overexploitation could tilt the balance of life irremediably.
::: Threats :::
The 150 million people living along the Mediterranean coast produce 3.8 billion cubic metres of wastewater each year.
A further 2.5 million cubic metres are produced by the 220 million tourists visiting the Mediterranean region every year. The above figures are a rapidly increasing trend.
The land-locked waters of the Mediterranean have a very low renewal rate (80 to 90 years), and so are extremely sensitive to pollution.
From the sea ...
Every year 600,000 tons of crude oil are deliberately released into the sea from shipping activities.
From the land
80% of the urban sewage produced is discharged untreated. Added to that are agricultural runoffs containing pesticides, nitrates and phosphates which contaminate the Mediterranean Sea.
Around 1.5 million tonnes of fish are caught in the Mediterranean each year. Destructive and often illegal fishing methods, including bottom trawlers, dynamite, long lines, and drift nets have depleted fish stocks.
Use of drift nets are also responsible for the accidental deaths and for incidental catches of flagship species such as cetaceans and marine turtles.
Depleted fish stocks are also reflected in the undersized catch. 83% of all blue-fin tuna and swordfish caught in the Mediterranean sea are undersized.