In Oceans & seas

Mediterranean Action Plan

The Mediterranean Sea reveals an irregular, deeply indented coastlines mostly rimmed by mountain ranges. It is a semi-enclosed sea taking over a century to be fully renewed. The straits of Gibraltar located at the western end of the Mediterranean provides the only natural connection with the global ocean. The Mediterranean Region comprises the 21 coastal states surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, in addition to the European Union.

The well-being of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast is affected by activities that are causing pollution to the marine environment, the source of life for both human beings and a large variety of marine living resources in the region, with 80% of the harm done to the Mediterranean Sea coming from land-based sources of pollution. Moreover, the excessive volume of international sea-borne trade that passes through it, poses significant pressures to the marine environment of the region, such as water borne diseases, the introduction of opportunistic exotic species, and maritime pollution caused by the transportation of oil and other hazardous substances. Finally, another extremely important threat posed to the Mediterranean comes from the impact of unrestrained development.

The Mediterranean became the first region to adopt an Action Plan (MAP) in 1975, just after the creation of the Regional Seas Programme in 1974, and was revised in 1995. Although the MAP’s initial focus was on marine pollution control, it gradually widened from a sectoral approach to pollution control, to integrated coastal zone planning and management as the key tool through which solutions are being sought. Six Regional Activity Centres (RACs) are responsible for the implementation of the Mediterranean Action Plan for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Sustainable Development of the Coastal Areas of the Mediterranean under the leadership of the UN Environment  Secretariat to the Barcelona Convention.

The Convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution (Barcelona Convention and its Protocols) was adopted in 1976 and entered into force in 1978. It was amended in 1995 (amended version in force 2004), and renamed Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean. It has today seven landmark protocols which are:

  • The Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution in the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft (adopted in 1976, amended in 1995)
  • The Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Preventing Pollution from Ships and, in Cases of Emergency, Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea (adopted 2002, replacing the related Protocol of 1976)
  • The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (adopted in 1980, amended in 1996)
  • The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution Resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of the Continental Shelf and the Seabed and its Subsoil (adopted in 1994)
  • The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (adopted in 1995) and Annexes (adopted in 1996, amended in 2009 and 2013)
  • The Protocol on the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (adopted in 1996)
  • The Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (adopted in 2008)

The adoption of an ecosystem-based vision, goals and 11 Mediterranean Ecological Objectives adopted by COP 15 and 17, (2008, 2012) along with a concrete timetable for the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach of the MAP system represent a key milestone and further development of the MAP system to support regional national efforts towards achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) in the Mediterranean in synergy with relevant global and regional initiatives including the European Union Marine Strategy Directive.

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