Madrid/Zurich, 16th December 2017: Tomorrow, 17th December, representatives of Range States to the Mediterranean Sea gather for the 20th Meeting of Parties to the Barcelona Convention, a four days conference (17-20. Dec 2017) in Tirana, Albania, to discuss important conservation action to protect this semi-enclosed ocean and its biodiversity. One of the core decisions that conservationists worldwide are expecting concerns the proposal submitted by the Spanish government to declare the waters between the Baleares and the Spanish mainland a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI).
Conservationists and scientists from around the world have been calling on the Spanish government for years to take such a step because of the importance of these waters as a feeding ground for fin whales, its importance as a migration corridor for various whale and dolphin species and its marine biodiversity in general. Some of the arguments are expressed in a statement currently signed by 39 internationally renowned marine scientists and 36 international marine conservation organisations whose supporter base numbers millions of people. The statement was handed over by OceanCare, NRDC and Alianza Mar Blava to top officials at the Spanish Ministry of Environment. The initiative had been launched as a reaction to continued efforts by the oil industry to gain licenses for exploring potential hydrocarbon resources which would result in intensive drilling activities.
Throughout 2016 and 2017 there has also been achieved a long series of meaningful institutional supports in Spain for this pro-SPAMI initiative, obtained at the request of Alianza Mar Blava, OceanCare and NRDC, including from the Spanish Parliament, the Balearic Parliament, the regional Governments of the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia, the island Councils of Majorca, Minorca, Formentera and Ibiza, and the City Councils of Barcelona, Valencia, Palma de Majorca as well as the councils of Ibiza, Mahón, Ciutadella, among many others in the Balearic Islands.
The Spanish government has already launched the process to declare these waters a SPAMI with a Decree to be published in the Spanish Official Bulletin (BOE) that declares the Cetacean Migration Corridor a Marine Protected Area and establishes a preventive protection regime in the area. The Decree forbids seismic surveys with air guns and other technologies as well as any extractive activities in this area.
“We are extremely close to gaining a major success for internationally protecting these parts of the Spanish waters. Not only would it be a very positive achievement for the protection of ecosystems and marine fauna of the Mediterranean Sea, but also with respect to the necessary decarbonisation of our economy to face the climate change challenge, since the protection of this cetacean corridor implies the impossibility of carrying out various hydrocarbon prospection projects which oil companies (Cairn Energy, Repsol, …) had requested in this area”, says Carlos Bravo, spokesperson of Alianza Mar Blava, an intersectoral platform whose mission is to increase the protection of the Mediterranean Sea. The Alianza is currently made up of over 120 members, including public administrations (from the Balearic Island and Catalonia), the private sector (like tourism, fishing and nautical businesses) and civil society entities.
“The decision about the official declaration of these waters as a SPAMI is of extraordinary importance, as it will tell whether we listen to science, whether a change in our energy policy is serious and whether conservation really matters. It’s about time”, says Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson for OceanCare and NRDC, two international NGO members of Alianza Mar Blava primarily engaged in reducing activities causing harmful noise in the world’s oceans.
The region had recently also been identified as a so-called Noise Hot Spot when scientists analysed activities causing anthropogenic noise in the Mediterranean Sea. Conservationists hope that following the declaration of these waters as a SPAMI, an overall management plan to reduce noise levels will be one of the next steps.
For further information:
Carlos Bravo, Alianza Mar Blava, M. +34 626 998 241, email@example.com
Nicolas Entrup, OceanCare and NRDC, M. + 43 660 211 9963, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org