Marine Protected Areas

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MPA Challenges in the Mediterranean

  • They cover less than 1% of the territory (4% with the Pelagos Sanctuary)
  • 75% of them are located in the northwestern shore
  • Only 40% have management plans
  • About 80% do not have sufficient financial and human means
  • Lack of coherence and ecological representativity
Source: "Status of MPA in the Mediterranean Sea (2008)" - IUCN, WWF, MedPAN

>> Find out more about MPAs

The Mediterranean Sea is as beautiful as it is fragile. Today it is under threat.
Marine Protected Areas are effective tools for ensuring marine ecosystems are protected,  natural resources are used sustainably, and that our natural heritage is maintained. WWF works to strengthen and expand the network of MPAs in the Mediterranean.

Less than 1% of the Mediterranean Sea is under protection. A far cry from the 10% called for in the CBD.

The Challenge

A sea under threat

We prize the Mediterranean Sea for food, recreation, beauty, traditions… It is also one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Representing less than 1% of world oceans, the Mediterranean counts over 10% of all known species including many endemic species. It has a remarkable diversity of life and is a vital reproduction zone for key pelagic species. 

Yet we have put this life support system in danger. Human pressure has intensified in the last decades through over-fishing, pollution, coastal development, unsustainable tourism, increased sea traffic.

Biodiversity and ecosystems are changing, while these changes are magnified by climate change. This may have huge consequences on our well being.

Human threats need to be reduced if we want to stop biodiversity loss and start recovering.

MPAs are effective conservation tools

An effective way to reduce biodiversity loss is to legally set aside specific portions of the sea and coast of particular ecological importance, and to regulate human activities within them. These areas are called Marine Protected Areas. Several Mediterranean countries have committed to protect the biodiversity through the implementation of MPAs.

The purpose of MPAs is to actively manage how humans interact with the environment to protect sensitive environments and threatened species. Overtime MPAs also have direct benefits to coastal societies and help generate sustainable livelihoods through revenue from fishing and tourism while allowing ecosystems to recover.

More and better MPAs are needed

The benefits of MPAs are proven. However, there are not yet enough areas under protection in Mediterranean to ensure a healthy coastal and marine environment for the future.

Currently only 4% of the Mediterranean (less than 1% if we exclude the Pelagos sanctuary) is in Marine Protected and Managed areas and 75% of them are located along the basin’s northwestern shore.

It is not enough. The Convention on Biological Diversity 2010 objective is set at 10%.

By 2012, the CBD also has the objective to establish a coherent and ecologically representative network of MPAs in the Mediterranean.

Why create MPA networks?

An effective MPA system is needed to ensure that the oceans recuperate, continue to store carbon dioxide, that fish stocks recover and that coastlines are protected from harsh climatic conditions


Giuseppe Di Carlo
Head of MPA Programme
WWF Mediterranean

WWF in action in the Mediterranean

WWF has identified the Mediterranean region as a global priority place where ecological integrity must be conserved to contribute to a more secure and sustainable future for all. Together with 5 WWF offices in the region WWF Mediterranean has launched the Mediterranean Initiative, a common strategy aiming at scaling WWF conservation efforts in the basin.

Safeguarding marine ecosystems is one of the 4 goals of the Mediterranean Initiative.

Indeed, the level of protection of the Mediterranean Sea is largely inadequate. In particular, Marine Protected Areas are too few, not ecologically representative of the Mediterranean biodiversity and not effectively managed. The WWF Mediterranean Initiative is pushing actors involved in marine protection towards a threshold where marine biodiversity conservation becomes a political, economic and social priority and MPAs become the tool of choice to ensure the sustainable management of marine ecosystems.


  • Contributed to the establishment of new Marine Protected Areas in Croatia, Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Tunisia, including critical areas for endangered species such as Monk Seal and Marine Turtles nesting sites
  • Leads the MedPAN South Project (WWF Mediterranean)
  • Leads the MedPAN North Project (WWF France)
  • Supports MedPAN, the network of MPA managers in the Mediterranean, as a crucial tool for marine conservation in the Mediterranean

  • Tunisian girls on the beach in Tabarka / ©: WWF Mediterranean - Marina Gomei
    Marine Protected Areas aim to safeguard  marine ecosystems habitats and species so that these may continue to provide services and benefits to our society for generations to come.

Remarkable species

  • A few remarkable species of the Mediterranean / ©: WWF,SAD AFAG, OEC
    • The bottlenose dolphin
    • The Mediterranean monk seal
    • The pen shell
    • The loggerhead turtle
    • The posidonia