Mediterranean: Existing marine and coastal protection systems aren’t working
The European Environment Agency (EEA) wants to see action on all fronts to protect the Mediterranean from environmental degradation.
While the open waters of the Mediterranean are “generally good”, the EEA is concerned that “only a small percentage of [the Mediterranean’s] coastal zone is still in pristine condition, of which an even smaller proportion is protected”.
State and pressures of the marine and coastal Mediterranean environment also highlights the urgent need for improved data collection and data sharing, pointing out that there are significant gaps in knowledge, no standardisation for data originating in different countries and no central ‘library’ of comparable data.
Despite gaps in data, EEA concludes that land-based human activity constitute the greatest pressure on the Mediterranean’s environment and that “in the case of urban and industrial pollution, the main problem is the rapid population growth along the southern coasts of the Mediterranean, where there are fewer legal instruments and lesser environmental infrastructure investments”.
The report makes recommendations in eight areas:
- research is needed to assess the impact of “accelerated sea level rise, erosion and desertification, floods and other threats that originate from climate change”
- protection of wilderness and habitats in the Mediterranean will require an integrated environmental management instead of a simple dependence on restricted marine parks and protected areas
- sewage treatment plants should be built to reduce the amount of untreated sewage entering the Mediterranean – currently about 60% of the sewage generated by urban centres on the coast is discharged without treatment
- agriculture use of water needs to be managed ‘holistically’ in order to reduce run-off levels
- control of fishing level is considered an “urgent priority”
- site selection for marine aquaculture should be better regulated
- oil reception facilities should be built for all large ports in order to reduce the levels of oil dumping in the Mediterranean
- protection of coastal zones should not be delayed, with regulation of physical planning, land reclamation and groundwater exploitation given priority
Although efforts to protect the Mediterranean were first introduced in 1975, EEA’s report argues that “action is needed at all policy levels” including international co-operation and involvement by EU bodies.
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