Eco-laws need enforcing to protect polluted Mediterranean

The environmental quality of the Mediterranean Sea will continue to suffer unless more is done to enforce existing laws designed to protect it from pollution.

The region is under a dual battering from chemical pollution from the industrialised countries of the northern Med to poor treatment of sewage and other waste reaching the sea from less-developed countries to the south and east.

These problems are exacerbated by the huge influx of sun-seeking tourists as well as the upsurge in ‘aquaculture’ – the farming of fish and shellfish.

Representatives of 21 countries bordering the sea met in Portoroz, Slovenia last week to discuss the findings of a report Priority issues in the Mediterranean Environment, jointly prepared by the European Environment Agency and the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan.

The report gives an overview of environmental problems facing the region and also breaks down the impact of individual states.

It looks at the effects of coastal development and shipping as well as biological problems such as the introduction of alien species and invasion of harmful algae blooms.

“The Mediterranean, the biggest tourist destination on earth, is under a process of habitat destruction and physical alteration that might go beyond what we have observed,” said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA.

“While the rate of exploitation of marine resources seems to have stabilised, the extent of the damage is alarming.

“The number one priority in environmental management in the Mediterranean region is to enforce the existing environmental legislation.”

The countries attending the meeting have now all prepared their own national action plans, outlinging how they intend to tackle, or at least mitigate, their own impact but UNEP has warned that unless there is more political will to enforce environmental legislation and guidelines the region will continue to suffer.

By Sam Bond

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