The Blue Recovery of the Mediterranean: the sea holds the future of the whole region | WWF

The Blue Recovery of the Mediterranean: the sea holds the future of the whole region

Posted on
08 June 2020

Rome, Italy – In a Mediterranean region ravaged by the COVID-19 epidemic and that is struggling to kick off an unpromising 2020 tourism season, on World Oceans Day WWF launches a call to the 22 coastal countries and territories to work together on a “Blue Recovery Strategy” for the region. Marine resources are the most important shared natural and socio-economic assets governments should focus on to guarantee a future of prosperity and stability to their people. 


WWF’s initiative “A Blue Recovery for the Mediterranean” examines the deteriorating ecological and economic outlook of the Mediterranean in 2020 [1] and goes on to detail a set of priorities and recommendations to deliver healthy marine ecosystems, more jobs and better living conditions by 2030.  WWF estimated [2] that the ocean-related economy in the Mediterranean can generate an annual value of US$450 billion, the equivalent of more than half of the EU Recovery Fund every year [3]. But this economy can deliver only if effective conservation at sea and sustainable economic development become the norm.


Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director of the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative, said:


“Ecological disasters, warming temperatures, refugee crisis, unemployment, and last but not least the pandemic: the Mediterranean region is in a constant status of emergency, unable to hope and plan for the future. 


The map of the Mediterranean shows the sea at its centre holding together the 22 coastal countries and territories. The sea is the one and most important natural and economic treasure we own. And it is here we need to invest if we ever want to have a chance for a real and long-term recovery. 


The recent halt in some maritime activities due to COVID-19 has confirmed that if we reduce the pressure on the natural environment, fish stocks and marine habitats may rebuild quickly and provide enough resources to sustain our socio-economic relaunch. We need courageous changes if we want to give our young generations the chance to live and work in the Mediterranean.”  


Two things need to happen to realise the Mediterrananean Blue Recovery. First: we must let the sea recover. While at the moment only a pitiful 1.27% of the Mediterranean is effectively protected, the world’s leading scientists agree that at least 30% of the sea should be put under protection. Effectively managed marine protected areas are crucial to rebuild fish stocks and sustain fishing and tourism activities and regulate the climate. [4]


Second, we must rebuild our economic system. WWF’s 2020 economic outlook [1] shows that all of the seven major maritime sectors – maritime transport, aquaculture, leisure boating, recreational, small-scale fisheries, cruise, leisure boating and offshore wind farms – are relying on or competing over key marine areas, leaving them in a state of severe depletion. The decline of these natural resources would inevitably result in the decline of most economic sectors and the communities depending on them.


Fisheries offer the strongest illustration of how the continued strength of an economic sector depends on environmental sustainability. Years of overfishing have turned the Mediterranean into the most exploited sea in the world. As a result, today, many fisheries have collapsed, fleets are shrinking, small-scale fishers are being forced out of jobs, and young people are moving away from coastal communities. Better fisheries management and increased marine protection could get the industry back on its feet and working sustainably.


And fishers must share the sea with other growing sectors: aquaculture has quadrupled in size in the last 20 years and already accounts for more than half of the Mediterranean’s total fishery output, while maritime transport is projected to grow at 4% per year. Tourism, despite the current slowdown due to the COVID-19 restrictions, has also seen incomparable growth in recent years. More than half of the world’s superyachts plough through Mediterranean waters each summer, but anchoring is the first threat to sea beds in marine protected areas. Managing these developments in a coordinated way and avoiding irreparable damages to the marine resources they depend on would be crucial.


“Business as usual will keep us impoverished and in a state of perpetual crisis. But serious multinational and multi-sectoral commitment to a Blue Recovery can lay the foundations for a sustainable future for generations to come. Ultimately, it’s up to us.” concluded Di Carlo.





Stefania Campogianni, Communications Manager, WWF Mediterranea Marine Initiative,, +39 346 3873237


Notes for the editor:


WWF Blue Recovery website will be available after embargo time (here


[1] The economic maps and analysis included in here were developed under the EU Project PHAROS4MPAs WWF has coordinated in 2019-2020, which assessed how maritime traffic, offshore wind farms, aquaculture, cruise, small-scale fishing, recreational fishing and leisure boating affect Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas, and suggests strategic approaches for avoiding or mitigating their impacts. More information, here


[2] In 2017, WWF produced a report “Reviving the Economy of the Mediterranean Sea” calculating that ocean-related activities in the Mediterranean Sea generate an annual economic value of US$450 billion, which compared to the regional GDPs, makes it the fifth largest economy in the region after France, Italy, Spain and Turkey. This value represents about 20% of the world’s annual GMP,1 in an area which makes up only 1% of the world’s ocean. Furthermore the economic assets of the Mediterranean Sea are conservatively valued at a staggering US$5.6 trillion.


[3] The EU Commission has proposed a recovery fund worth €750bn (£670bn; $825bn). 

[4] The Mediterranean is losing its biodiversity: Due to overfishing, 80% of assessed fish stocks are overexploited. Economic activities, pollution and climate change are depleting the sea: in the last 50 years the Mediterranean has also lost more than 40% of its marine mammals and 34% of its Posidonia seagrass meadows, vital both as a nursery habitat and a carbon sink. And every year, 0.57 million tonnes of plastic enters Mediterranean waters – the equivalent of dumping 33,800 plastic bottles into the sea every minute. But protection is lacking across the whole region, as the WWF report shows.