Love the sea and its protected sites, learning about them
Thirty years after its creation, the Natura2000 network of Mediterranean countries of the European Union is still little known, as shown by the Eurobarometer surveys published in 2019.
The reason stands behind the nature of the information on the Natura2000 network: firstly of difficult access because contained in the institutional website; secondly not widespread and comprehensible because linked to scientific Latin terms, identification code and without correlated photos. Against this backdrop, the information necessary to create common knowledge on this precious system of protected areas is thus not shared effectively. This applies both to terrestrial and marine areas of the network, the latter being of particular concern to us. However, many stakeholders such as locals, tourists, sailors, divers and fishermen frequent and love these territories without knowing them or being aware of their protection regime. Moreover, marine Natura 2000 sites suffer from additional criticalities: they have been designed more recently than land sites, they are less identifiable at sea, and they are generally not shown on the most widely used nautical charts or web maps.
Nevertheless, as shown by a survey conducted by Triton in spring-summer 2020 on 1640 respondents, almost all people consulted stated that if they were aware of the presence of marine Natura 2000 sites, they would be willing to improve their behaviours by reducing their impacts. Among them are voluntary or involuntary damages to species and habitat of community importance, a speed reduction of boats, reporting environmental damages to the authorities, greater compliance with the rules, reduction of accidental pollution, interruption of fishing activities. Respondents have also suggested three tools to increase the knowledge of Marine Natura 2000 sites, such as the use of the social network, the development of web maps and local promotional initiatives.
Based on this evidence, Triton was therefore at the forefront of the project financed by the European LIFE instrument specifically dedicated to the enhancement of the Marine Areas of the Natura2000 network, the LIFE GIE/IT/001352 A-MAR NATURA2000 project. The project officially started on 1 October 2021 and it is scheduled to end on 1 October 2025. The belief behind the project idea is that “if we know and love N2000 marine sites we will act better to protect them”. Many European regions where the project will be implemented: Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’ Azur, Corse, Ionia Nisia, Sterea Ellada, Sicilia, Sardegna, Puglia, Marche, Liguria, Lazio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Campania, Calabria, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Veneto, Molise, Malta, Cataluna, Comunidad valenciana, Murcia, Baleares, Andalucia and the entire coastal area of Albania. Triton’s beneficiaries in the project are Federparchi, as the coordinating beneficiary, Fundaciòn Biodiversidad, Lipu ODV, while as co-financiers Asinara National Park, the Tuscan Archipelago National Park and the Cinque Terre National Park.
A major awareness-raising and information project that has one of its objectives to create awareness of several threats to the biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea, listed below.
Water and coastal pollution are caused by marine litter, plastic and abandoned fisheries gear. This type of pollution is considered one of the main threats to the marine environment. In Italy, plastic represents the major percentage of marine litter and Spain is the second biggest discharger of plastic on the Mediterranean sea. The Report “A Plastic Trap. Freeing the Mediterranean from plastic” highlights the dramatic effects that excessive use of plastic, poor waste management and mass tourists are having on one of the most visited regions in the world, the Mediterranean sea. Plastic waste on the sea is generated also by tourists, passengers and crews of vessels and commercial/recreational fishing. This project will raise awareness among the public about the damages caused by marine pollution to modify their behaviours with a subsequent auspicious reduction of abandoned waste.
Unsustainable fisheries practises with a direct impact on species and habitats. Practises of this sector are too often far away from sustainable and can cause pressures on harvested species and damage the overall marine ecosystems, so much that one of the measures in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 is “a new action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems”. The scope of this project is to increase knowledge about the value and economic opportunities of the Natura2000 network to lead to greater cooperation between fishermen and managers of Natura2000 sites, greater compliance with the rules and stimulate greater participation of fishermen in the request for sustainable fishing funds such as EMFF.
Unsustainable tourism, caused by environmentally unfriendly behaviours by various categories of tourists, with a direct impact on species and habitats. Some examples are the damages to the Posidonia oceanica beds caused by anchors and the disturbance to delicate ecosystems caused by diving and direct observation of wildlife or jet ski activities. No less impactful are activities related to motor boats which are a source of noise pollution and collisions with marine mammals, with often fatal consequences. Natura2000 sites offer great opportunities for tourism and recreational activities, but with their high naturalistic value and fragility, it is necessary to properly manage the flow of tourists and the way they use the sites.
Lack of knowledge on the existence of environmental and socio-economic benefits of the Natura2000 network. The project will contribute to increasing the social appraisal of these spaces and their benefits in terms of ecosystem services and biodiversity, as well as their touristic value.
Lack of scientific and technical knowledge on the status of species and habitats and lack of effective management plans. To have better protection of Natura2000 sites, it is necessary not only to include all relevant stakeholders but also to develop conservation strategies, knowledge and effective management plans for each site.
A communication campaign, coordinated and carried out by Triton with the collaboration of each project’s partner, foreseen therefore the engagement of several stakeholders having a real or potential impact, both direct or indirect, on species and habitats of the marine areas concerned. Among them are fishermen, shipping companies, local and foreign entrepreneurs that derive direct profit from marine resources and therefore have the interest to maintain a balance of species of food interest. But also, tour operators, boaters, professionals or recreationists divers, managers of protected areas and marine sites of the Natura2000 network, residents, tourists, nature photographers, sailors, environmental educators, nature guides, researchers and technicians, environmentalists and animal rights activists.
Triton will therefore carry out all equally important communication actions during the whole duration of the project.
First of all, all relevant stakeholders of marine areas will be identified and mapped, afterwards they will be consulted and involved in the project for a massive citizen science campaign, in collaboration with other LIFE projects. A sailing campaign will be launched in spring 2023, which will be repeated in 2023, to reach the marine protected areas of Spain and Italy for a total of at least 40 Natura2000 sites. During the sailing campaign, guided tours with local experts and scientists, dissemination events and workshops will be organised. An important social and web campaign will be launched, with the sharing of images and videos and the launch of a project app. The latter will be a fundamental tool to inform on the marine sites Natura2000 Network and for recruiting locals, tourists and sea operators in monitoring activities of marine species and habitats. The aim is to promote the little-known sites of Natura2000 Network and encourage sustainable behaviours for the environment, also involving famous people and influencers with many followers to set up a good example
Triton will organise 2 sailing regattas in 2024 and 2025 supported by FIV and with the active participation of Yacht Club Porto Rotondo and other clubs that have already given their patronage. The regattas will take place in seawater of the Natura2000 marine sites and will see the participation of policymakers, influencers, entrepreneurs and marine tourists. Each regatta can accommodate between 40/60 boats, from 8 to 22 metres.
Finally, LIPU will organise in 2023 an event to celebrate the European Day of Natura2000, focused on the sea and the emergency to complete the Natura2000 network in the marine environment. The event will be held in 10 Italian marine sites.
To stay updated on the technical-scientific progress of the project and on communication actions, you can follow LIFE A-MAR NATURA 2000 on the project social channels