Marine Protected Areas

Kas Kekova MPA, Turkey
© Paolo Guglielmi / WWF Mediterranean


a colossal fin whale plunging deep into the Mediterranean's azure depths. It lunges toward a school of krill, gulping down soupy, bus-sized mouthfuls. Another hunt takes place above water, as local, artisanal fishermen haul in sardines with special gear that eliminates accidental bycatch.

They are not the only ones to enjoy the Mediterranean's bounty. Divers and tourists marvel at large groupers hiding behind rocks; red coral framed like underwater paintings; metre-tall pen shells dotting lush green meadows of posidonia. Each benefits without depleting the sea's resources. People and nature, working together.

This is what life in the Mediterranean could be. Marine Protected Areas can help us get there.

	© Claudia Amico / WWF
Mediterranean MPAs video
© Claudia Amico / WWF

Video: Mediterranean MPAs

Marine Protected Areas can be a winning card for sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean. WWF's stories of best practices from Mediterranean MPAs at this link.

Why create MPA networks?

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 is working with partners to strengthen and expand the network of MPAs in the Mediterranean. 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.

Fishermen engagement in Mediterranean MPAs

Challenges for MPAs in the Mediterranean

  • They cover less than 5% of the territory (1% without the Pelagos Sanctuary)
  • 83% of them are located on the northwestern shores of the basin
  • Only 44% have management plans
  • About 80% do not have sufficient financial and human resources
  • There is a general lack of coherence and ecological representativity
Find out more about MPAs
Engaging fishermen in Mediterranean MPAs
Artisanal fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea represent roughly 86% of the approximately 42,000 fishing boats existing in the region. Involving fishermen in the establishment and co-management of MPAs has resulted in examples of successful coexistence between fishing and conservation interests. MPAs benefit artisanal fishermen in the long term and represent an important way forward, along with other regional fisheries management tools.Challenges for MPAs in the Mediterranean.

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 (MPAs) — they are slices of ocean and coastline set aside because of their ecological importance. They safeguard the Mediterranean's amazing marine life, protect fishermen's livelihoods, boost local economies and help tourists discover one of our planet's most stunning treasures. Several Mediterranean countries have committed to protect biodiversity through the implementation of MPAs.

MPAs allow us to actively manage how humans interact with the environment to protect sensitive environments and threatened species. Over time MPAs are also of direct benefit to coastal communities 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. Mediterranean nations have agreed to protect 10% of the Mediterranean by 2020. But they have a long way to go. Today, less than 5% of the Mediterranean (less than 1% if we exclude the Pelagos sanctuary) has been designated Marine Protected and Managed areas.


Marina Gomei

WWF 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 
    • The bottlenose dolphin
    • The Mediterranean monk seal
    • The pen shell
    • The loggerhead turtle
    • The posidonia