“Conservation is more an art than a science” is a common statement in the nature protection circles. It reflects the fact that a flexible attitude and learning from experience are important in all conservation work. This is the case also in the Mediterranean, where a lot of experience has accumulated through the failures and successes in marine park development. These are the messages from marine protected area (MPA) specialists in three Mediterranean countries, when they highlight the most important success factors in marine park design:
Tunisia – Marine protected areas need to be open areas. To achieve the conservation benefits, there is no need to close the protected areas. There are proven research results showing that marine protected areas increase the fish populations and therefore the income of fishermen using the protected areas and living around them.
Turkey – In order to conserve the monk seals, we need to keep the local fish stocks in a good and steady condition. In order to do that, we need to get the support of the local fishermen and the local people. We worked on that matter and this is why our project became a succesful project. If you don’t involve the local stakeholders and the local interested groups, you cannot succeed.
Cyprus – The biggest challenge in the creation of marine protected areas is mainly to convince the people, particularly those people whose lives depend on these areas, like professional and sports fishermen, owners of cruise boats, and divers. Fishermen should realise that by protecting the marine biodiversity they will eventually benefit because they are going to have a recovery of the biodiversity and fish stocks.
More opinions of Mediterranean marine park experts can be found in a Youtube video, from where also the above, slightly edited comments are. This is the link to the video: Return of the Groupers – Benefits of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean – A television documentary