Environmental Quality Pillar notes: Adriatic-Ionian region with the lowest share of marine protected areas among all regional seas in the Mediterranean region
At the press conference, the representatives of the EUSAIR participating countries presented the key challenges of Albania after taking over the presidency, the novelties of the eco-innovation group, the results of the analysis of marine protected areas in the Adriatic-Ionian region and, in connection with this, proposals for corrective measures.
During the 15th meeting of the Thematic Steering Group of the “Environmental Quality” Pillar within the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR), participants discussed various ongoing activities. Among others, they tackled Albanian presidency of EUSAIR, which was taken over from Slovenia on 1 June 2021. Albanian colleagues are focusing on topics such as youth and all-inclusiveness, European integration and green agenda, tourism, culture and connectivity. The most attention attracted a presentation of the study “Analysis of marine protected areas in the EUSAIR region and proposals for corrective measures”, commissioned by Facility Point Plus project and executed by Mr Andrej Sovinc.
Mr Andrej Sovinc, a lecturer, conservationist, author of numerous professional articles and books, explained that at least 30% of the EU's land area and 30% of the EU's marine area should be protected, while at least one-third of protected areas (10% of the EU's land area and 10% of the marine area) should be strictly protected by provisions on effective management and restoration. He emphasized that the Adriatic-Ionian region had the lowest share of protected seas among all regional seas in the Mediterranean region – only 3,57% protected and 0,07% strictly protected. The EU's target for 2030 is 30% of protected areas and 10% of strictly protected marine areas.
A map of potential protected areas was presented together with the intensity of fishing activities in the areas and possible conflicts in this regard. He divided the potential next steps within the action plan into 3 levels: local or national, cross-border and macro-regional level. Within the first 2, Mr Andrej Sovinc proposes the expansion and more efficient management of protected areas, with so-called blue corridors, and areas where biodiversity is the greatest with a total ban on fishing.
At the end of his presentation, the recognized nature conservationist suggested to the representatives of EUSAIR participating countries to adopt an agreement on the commitments and objectives for the implementation of joint actions within their competencies. Among the goals, he mentioned strategic planning for the expansion of potential protected marine areas, strengthening existing activities in combination with new initiatives in the field of blue and green corridors, ecosystem services, endangered marine species, interaction with other sectors, climate change, new partnerships, and innovative activities or tools. Another proposal was to establish AdrIonPAN – a professional organization with clear goals in supporting the identification and designation of marine protected areas, capacity development and networking. More about this will be discussed at the special workshop on 9 November, organized by the Environment Quality Pillar within the EUSAIR in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia and the following Slovenian institutions: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, and the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy.