Enhancing the potential of Blue Economy in the Mediterranean Sea Basin

A regional workshop was held under the working title “The Mediterranean Sea We need for the Future we Want.”. The Italian Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), the European Commission (EC), United Nations Environment/Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP), Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM) and the BLUEMED Initiative encompassed the co-organization of the event of the 3-day workshop on 21-23 January in Venice (Italia).

The Mediterranean Sea is an essential component of the history, economy and culture of Europe, Middle East and North African countries. Moreover, the Mediterranean Basin (MB) is home to a tremendous diversity of habitats and species. Recent studies suggest that the Mediterranean Sea generates an annual economic value, which is comparable to the larger economies in the Euro-Mediterranean region. For instance, the region has 200 ports and terminals and nearly 40 % of all goods (by value) pass through the Mediterranean*.

However, climate change has been affecting the region over the last years, jeopardizing the preservation of resources and ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea. Developing Blue economy initiatives through better methodology is a priority on both regional and local scales.

In this context, a specific workshop was conducted as part of the consultation projects of the preparatory phase of the “UN Decade of Ocean Science for sustainable development (2021-2030)”. 159 people and 25 panelists attended the meeting, of which 32 countries where represented.

The meeting reviewed the state of marine research in the region, and of ocean observation, and ocean literacy, and made one recommendations for future development of an effective management of the Mediterranean Sea. To better understand how marine research can contribute to the development of ocean governance regimes, six working groups identified the main common priorities to foster the ocean we need for the future we want. Two main focal areas were investigating: Enhancing strategies for regional collaborations and Building nation ownership, capacity and resilience.

  • Promoting regional observing and predicting capabilities in the Mediterranean

Recognizing the ambition of the Ocean Decade, participants agreed that fostering synergies in the marine spatial planning of the Mediterranean Sea was highly important. Case studies and several hypothetical scenarios were discussed, including scenarios of how stakeholders might develop coordinated marine and maritime projects.

As part of the research projects to be promoted, participants highlighted the necessity to develop robust, sustained, and coordinated observations focused on specific measurements to assess changes in marine ecosystems. They also discussed the need to capitalize on existing scientific and innovative programmes to obtain structured partnerships. As an example, they mentioned the potential of North-South and East-West collaboration to support initiatives yet implemented such as the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (CFCM) or the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

“Coastal urbanization and climate change exacerbates the need for advanced monitoring and predictions of coastal inundation, pollution, habitat health and multi-hazards. Ocean Science is a champion and a source of innovation, we all have to bring it about but we all stand to gain in the end.” explained Nadia Pinardi, co-president of the Joint Committee for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM).

  • Building regional ownership, capacity and resilience

While technical and scientific progress promoted by the Ocean Decade were raised throughout discussions, it was generally agreed that the Decade needs to go beyond scientific capacity development. Workings groups identified regional standards and good practices to be shared between different stakeholders, including a special focus on ocean literacy activities, information sharing, baselines and targets to allow for strong knowledge of the Mediterranean Sea.

‘’Everyone should share his view of the seascape to improve our ability to forecast extreme events. The Mediterranean is a share sea, any best practice will have an extra value to address climate change issues in the following Ocean Decade.’’ asserted Suzan KHOLEIF, Director of National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries for the Mediterranean Sea.

The use of a cross-shared educational strategy was seen as providing a framework for stronger a framework for stronger integration of ocean awareness on the national and regional levels. It was also proposed that such multi-scale complementary would serve to reinforce educational strategies and the establishment of a community dedicated to coordinate climate change adaptation in the Mediterranean.

The Ocean Decade aims to develop progressively the basis for a global ocean monitoring system as a key tool to help Mediterranean decision-makers in implementing the Agenda 2030. A report on the “The Mediterranean Sea We need for the Future we Want” will soon be published online.