The SPA/BD focal points held their 15th meeting

The participants reviewed UNEP/MAP-SPA/RAC activities during the present biennium and discussed updated action plans, new measures and strategies for the conservation, monitoring and management of biodiversity in the Mediterranean. 

Exceptionally this year, the focal points for Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity (SPA/BD) meeting was held by videoconference from 23 to 25 June 2021 due to the sanitary conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting saw the participation of 20 Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention and representatives of several MAP components and partner organisations. 

Updated Action Plans for better conservation of species and habitats

The discussion focused first on the updated regional action plans for the conservation of cetaceans (updated in close collaboration with ACCOBAMS) and of habitats and species associated with seamounts, underwater caves and canyons, aphotic hard beds and chemo-synthetic phenomena in the Mediterranean Sea (Dark Habitats Action Plan). The meeting reviewed and endorsed the draft action plans and agreed on their submission to the MAP focal points meeting and the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) for adoption.

The meeting also endorsed the proposal on the first elements to elaborate the List of Reference of Pelagic Habitat Types in the Mediterranean Sea and recommended to establish a multidisciplinary group of experts to elaborate the List for consideration by COP23.

The Ballast Water Management strategy for the Mediterranean Sea: 2022-2027, which has been prepared by REMPEC in cooperation with SPA/RAC to address, notably, the introduction of alien and invasive species issue, will be also submitted to the MAP focal points meeting and COP22.

Advancing marine protected areas in the Mediterranean region

The Post-2020 Regional Strategy for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) in the Mediterranean is one of the major strategies proposed by SPA/RAC to conserve biodiversity. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are indeed a powerful tool to preserve and restore ecosystems, and thus an essential catalyst to move towards a sustainable and healthy Mediterranean. 

The Post-2020 Regional Strategy on MCPAs and OECMs includes specific actions on improving governance arrangements of MCPAs and OECMs, expanding soundly designed, ecologically representative and well-connecting systems of MCPAs, identifying, recognizing and reporting marine and coastal OECMs, management effectiveness of MCPAs, as well as mobilizing actions and support for MCPAs and OECMs.

The meeting reviewed and endorsed the document proposed by SPA/RAC. It was also agreed to make a reference to the strategy within the Post-2020 Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the Mediterranean Region (Post-2020 SAPBIO) to ensure that the objectives / targets related to MCPAs & OECMS in both documents are aligned.

The elaboration of the strategy for MCPAs & OECM has benefited from the scientific and technical support of the Ad hoc Group of experts for MPAs in the Mediterranean (AGEM), which has also been working during the last biennium 2020-2021, on the SPAs criteria and directory and OECMs identification and reporting in the Mediterranean.

The SPAMIs in the spotlight

There are currently thirty-nine Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs) listed under the SPA/BD Protocol.The sites included in the SPAMI List are intended to have a value of example and model for the protection of the natural heritage of the region. 11 SPAMI ordinary periodic reviews have been carried out over the last two years and have confirmed that the areas concerned are well managed.

The meeting welcomed the draft guidance for identifying and designating Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs) in relation to SPAMIs, prepared by REMPEC in cooperation with SPA/RAC, as a useful and practical tool to further protect SPAMIs from international shipping through the PSSA designation.

The meeting also welcomed the initiative and concepts to set up the SPAMI Day and a SPAMI Certificate, aimed at addressing the challenges related to communication and outreach about SPAMIs, and effective MPA management in general.

Monitoring the Mediterranean Sea and coast

Assessing and monitoring the status of the marine and coastal environment is crucial to achieve and maintain the Good Environmental Status of the Mediterranean. The meeting endorsed the new elements and tools proposed by SPA/RAC for monitoring benthic habitats, marine mammals, marine turtles and non-indigenous species (NIS), and agreed to consider their use for the purpose of the 2023 Mediterranean Quality Status Report (2023 MED QSR).

During the last biennium 2020-2021, several activities were undertaken at national and regional level within the framework of the implementation of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP). These include support to southern Mediterranean countries for the implementation of monitoring programmes in selected sites, the establishment of national IMAP committees and the setting up of informal Online Working Groups, which provided important scientific feedback and technical support for the preparation of biodiversity monitoring and assessment elements.

Some activities were carried out in the framework of projects. The European Union HORIZON 2020 project ODYSSEA has supported various IMAP indicators recording in sizeable marine areas throughout the Mediterranean with innovative technological tools, while the GEF Adriatic project contributed to implementation of both IMAP and Marine Spatial Planning processes under the Barcelona Convention in the Adriatic Sea and particularly in Albania and Montenegro.

The post-2020 SAPBIO

The Post-2020 SAPBIO was certainly the agenda item that took up most of the discussion time at the SPA/BD thematic focal points meeting. The new strategy is a MAP flagship product, which aims to unite the efforts of all Mediterranean stakeholders for the conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity.

To recall, the SAPBIO addresses the most urgent drivers to relief the pressure on biodiversity, including those that overarch beyond the strict environmental sector, for example, to foster adequate incentives for the sustainable use of marine and coastal natural resources, to reduce conflicts among overlapping uses, developing marine spatial planning and integrated coastal management, and to mainstream biodiversity into sector/cross-sector policies, including the valuation and accounting of natural capital and ecosystem services. 

 The post 2020 SAPBIO also proposes actions to strengthen some enabling conditions, such as improving governance and management systems, closing knowledge gaps to efficiently monitor changes, building capacities, improving the funding conditions from national sources, and largely reinforcing cooperation between countries and from international actors.

The goals, targets and actions tables of the strategy were thoroughly discussed during the meeting, including within the framework of a working group, to build consensus. The revised draft Post- 2020 SAPBIO will be submitted to the next MAP focal points meeting and COP 22 for adoption.

All the documents of the 15th SPA/BD focal points will be available soon on the SPA/RAC website.

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published on 2021/07/20 15:01:43 GMT+0 last modified 2021-07-19T14:43:08+00:00