Greenpeace maps out new vision for Mediterranean protection

Press release - 3 November, 2009
Greenpeace today outlined its vision to protect the entire Mediterranean ecosystem and safeguard the future for key species such as bluefin tuna.

The launch of the Greenpeace 'Mediterranean Marine Governance' proposal coincides with the opening of the Barcelona Convention (BARCON) meeting in Marrakech, Morocco(1), and calls for BARCON members to become central to a modernised system, enforcing commitments to create a network of marine reserves across the Mediterranean Sea. Greenpeace is also calling on members to request their counterparts attending the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) to end bluefin tuna fishing and protect spawning grounds as a first step towards modernising marine governance of the Mediterranean.(2)

For decades the Mediterranean Sea has been impacted by excessive and destructive fishing, pollution, degradation of coastal areas and - increasingly - climate change impacts. The sheer scale of destruction - most dramatically seen in the desperate state of bluefin tuna stocks - calls for a drastic change in governance of marine resources, according to Greenpeace.

"The Barcelona Convention should be the bedrock of a modernised governance system for the Mediterranean. It needs to draw together current regional agreements and bodies in an overarching and integrated framework based on a precautionary and ecosystem approach," said Sofia Tsenikli, Mediterranean policy adviser at Greenpeace International. " Our proposal further presents a number of short, medium and long-term measures towards achieving recovery and protection of Mediterranean ecosystems."

The most pressing of the needed short-term measures is total protection for Northern bluefin tuna. Just last week, ICCAT's own scientists reported that the current spawning biomass is less than 15% of what it was before fishing began - meaning Northern bluefin tuna meets the criteria to ban all international trade in the species under a CITES Appendix I listing, a measure proposed by Monaco last month.(3)

"The ICCAT scientists have made formal what we have been saying all along - that Northern bluefin tuna is on the edge of collapse. Only a closure of the fishery coupled with a ban on international trade in this endangered species can prevent its commercial extinction" said François Provost, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace International.

The extent of ICCAT's failure and of other fisheries management organisations to act responsibly over marine resources can no longer be ignored. It drives the urgent need to move from the current fragmented management model towards an integrated governance system that is based on a precautionary, ecosystem approach and specifically provides for the establishment of an effective network of large-scale marine reserves on the high seas. Greenpeace has already identified two key areas that must be protected as a matter of urgency - Balearic bluefin tuna spawning grounds and the Sicilian channel - and has submitted scientific studies to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Barcelona Convention(3).

The BARCON and ICCAT meetings are part of a series of oceans political meetings taking place over the next six weeks that could make or break oceans protection. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Life (CCAMLR) is already underway in Hobart, Tasmania, and Greenpeace is demanding the meeting agree to designate the Ross Sea as the first of a series of marine reserves in the Southern Ocean that would contribute, along with the Mediterranean reserves, to a global network of marine protection.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves, covering 40% of our oceans. They are essential to ensure clean and healthy oceans and protect marine life from overfishing and habitat destruction. Healthy oceans can also play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.

Other contacts: Yesim Aslan, Greenpeace International Communications Officer:
+ 90 532 316 73 65

Sofia Tsenikli, Greenpeace International Mediterranean Policy Adviser:
+30 697 944 33 06

François Provost, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner:
+33 623 590 963

Notes: (1) The 16th meeting of the contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention meets in Marrakech, Morrocco, from 3 to 5 November 2009. The Barcelona Convention - the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean - and its Protocols are the legal underpinning of the Mediterranean Action Plan, the first Regional Sea Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP)

(2) A 2008 performance review of ICCAT written by a panel of experts states that "the management by ICCAT CPCs of this bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean is widely seen as an international disgrace." The panel itself recommends ICCAT "the suspension of fishing on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean until the CPCs fully comply with ICCAT recommendations on bluefin."

Greenpeace scientific briefing: "The Mediterranean Sea - Southern Balearics and the Sicilian Channel"
Full report: "High Seas Mediterranean Marine Reserves: a case study for the Southern Balearics and the Sicilian Channel"