A pilot project in the Balearic Islands will study the benefits of marine reserves in the Mediterranean

Image: Manu San Félix

Marilles Foundation, together with the Balearic Center for Applied Biology (CBBA) and Ecoacsa, will calculate the marine natural capital of the Llevant Marine Reserve in Mallorca.

The study is part of the European Interreg Med MPA Networks project that aims to improve the management of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean.

It is one of the first cases of these characteristics applied to the Spanish marine environment, and the methodology and results will be replicated to other reserves in the Mediterranean.

The stock of habitats and marine species –our natural capital– generate goods and services for our society. Some of them, such us fisheries or tourism, are visible and can be easily calculated; Others, like the feeling of well-being or enjoyment, are more abstract and difficult to measure. Natural capital accounting makes it possible to visualize the relationship between the natural environment, the economy and human well-being; and it facilitates decision-making by governments and companies for a better conservation of our natural heritage.

The objective of the project is to evaluate the contribution of the Marine Reserve of Llevant of fishing interest (to the of Eastern Mallorca) to the local and regional economy, through traditional fishing and leisure activities related to the marine and coastal environment, among others. The aim is to measure the extent, condition and value of the goods and services of the marine reserve and to identify its beneficiaries. Another purpose of the project is to offer data on the benefits obtained (and could be obtained) from investing in the recovery of degraded marine habitats and the conservation of Balearic marine biodiversity. Ultimately, the project wants to make visible the importance of conserving marine ecosystems of the reserve so that the benefits they generate can be sustained in the future.

The Balearic Islands have a network of marine reserves and protected areas whose value and benefits have often gone unnoticed. The Marine Reserve of fishing interest of Llevant in Mallorca has been chosen due to the quality of the scientific information available; the history associated with its declaration and the relevance of the participation of the economic sectors involved in its declaration and management; also due to the fact that the reserve is managed jointly and exemplary by the state and autonomous fisheries authorities.

Marilles Foundation will coordinate the development of the study, while the Spanish consultancy Ecoacsa will develop the natural capital accounting system and a guide for its application to other MPAs – with the support of the British consultancy Eftec. The Balearic Center for Applied Biology (CBBA) will carry out field-based work, which will consist of gathering information and perception from local actors.

 

European project on marine protected areas (MPAs)

Despite the increased coverage of MPAs in the Mediterranean, the objective of maintaining marine biodiversity is far from being met. MPAs face many challenges and have multiple deficiencies in the provision of legal instruments and financial resources, which determine the availability of technical and human resources. The Balearic Islands are not an exception in this regard.

 

The objective of the European project Interreg Med MPA Networks it is to contribute to the effective management of Mediterranean MPAs, by proposing solutions in four aspects: effective management, small-scale fisheries management, conservation of mobile species and sustainable financing.

 

Interreg Med MPA is coordinated by MedPAN and brings together ten Mediterranean partners, mainly AMP management bodies from seven countries: Albania, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Spain. Marilles Foundation participates as a partner and has the mission of coordinating the implementation of a marine natural capital accounting system in the AMP of  Llevant.

 

Marilles will export the experience of projects on MPAs in the Balearic Islands and other regions of Spain, while importing examples from other parts of the Mediterranean that may be of interest. The results derived from the pilot project in the Llevant will be connected to those obtained in Spain by the project LIFE IP Intemares, by Biodiversity Foundation, which aims to achieve a network of marine spaces of the Natura 2000 Network managed effectively. The recommendations that emerge from this collaborative work will be aimed at supporting policy improvements at international, European and national levels. 

Image: Sebastiá Torrens

Why natural capital accounts are useful

Natural capital accounts allow us to have a perspective on the state of our natural capital, its evolution and how its improvement or deterioration affects its ability to continue providing services in the future.

 

This information enables correct decisions to be made, both from public and private institutions, to identify investment priorities, improve management and invest in conservation. All this opens the doors to the possibility of creating a medium and long-term conservation program; a 25-year program, as it has been developed in other countries.

 

Natural assets must be managed in order to obtain products and services. For example, fisheries production depends on marine habitats, the quality of waters and currents, and physical factors that guarantee the life cycle of many species. But it is also necessary the effort of fishermen (human capital), boats and nets (physical capital) and all the services and infrastructure necessary for the fisheries products to reach the point of sale in the market. If we change the structure of an ecosystem we can cause irreversible changes and prevent it from returning to its initial state.

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