Lebanon's Ministry of Environment and IUCN with the support of partners such as the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (UN Environment Programme-Barcelona Convention) have brought forward a Marine Protected Areas Strategy aimed at achieving a healthy, productive, and biologically diverse marine environment in Lebanese waters.
Lebanon has two legally-declared marine protected areas (MPA): the Palm Islands Nature reserve in North Lebanon and the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve in South Lebanon.
The Ministry of Environment along with the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation are implementing a project Supporting Management of Important Marine Habitats and Species in Lebanon (2010-2012) to help develop of a network of MPAs and an associated monitoring programme to evaluate their management effectiveness.
The Strategy is part of the results of this project which has been funded by the Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales (OAPN, Spain), the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the MAVA Foundation.
The Strategy was presented to the Minister of Environment, Nazem El Khoury, by IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, and Director of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, Antonio Troya at the end of November. The meeting was part of the annual conference of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED).
The aim of the Strategy is to set out national priority actions needed to establish new marine protected areas in Lebanon and for the proper management of existing and new MPAs. It also defines the interventions required at technical, research, regulatory, policy, institutional, financial, education, capacity building, communication and promotion levels.
The Mediterranean covers only 0.8% of the world's oceans, but includes 7% of all known marine species. Marine protected areas have gained intrernational recognition as effective tools to protect the marine environment, and are much in favour in the Mediterranean where great effort has recently been made to grant special protection to sites seen as containing the most valuable marine habitats and species.
In the Mediterranean, marine protected areas are not distributed in an ecologically coherent and representative network, most of them (73.4%) are located along the northern shore.
The IUCN Mediterranean Marine Programme is involved in a number of initiatives to preserve and restore the biological integrity and to improve the governance of the Mediterranean Sea.
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