Among the different marine areas of the Mediterranean Sea, the Alboran Sea represents a unique element given its ecological wealth, due to its blend of Atlantic and Mediterranean marine biodiversity, its socioeconomic importance, and its geopolitical location between Europe and Africa. The adequate management of this space, and in particular the conservation of certain areas, is essential for the three bordering countries of the Alboran Sea: Algeria, Morocco, and Spain.
The Med-RAS initiative for the Identification of Priority Representative Areas and Species to be conserved in the Mediterranean Sea, developed by IUCN, aims to identify the most important habitats and species so as to adequately protect and manage them. Med-RAS considers the Alboran Sea to be a pilot area for creating a coherent network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean, based on the identification of its most representative features, like habitats, species, underwater structures, and hydrological phenomena.
On 6 and 7 July 2009, researchers, members of the civil service, and experts from Spain, Morocco and the Mediterranean region took part in a workshop for the identification and planning of a network of marine protected areas in the Alboran Sea. The meeting was held at the Civic Centre in Malaga, Spain, and organised jointly by the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation and Malaga County Council.
This workshop was a pilot experiment in the Mediterranean region to begin developing a common methodology for identifying and effectively managing MPAs, as well to promote the development of a joint programme for adequately managing the region and making concerted decisions.
The specific objectives of the workshop were:
• To identify priority areas for conservation, and define a coherent and representative network of MPAs in the Alboran Sea, based on specific criteria and biological, physical, chemical, and socioeconomic indicators.
• To review existing scientific information in order to establish this network, and evaluate its usefulness for defining ecologically and biologically important areas and species.
• To integrate biological information, interactions, and the impacts of human activities with natural processes for determining sites and conservation objectives.
During the discussions, participants decided to:
• Develop cooperation between research and management organizations from the three countries, and where necessary, with support from external experts.
• Define common criteria for identifying important sites and species, criteria which could be applied to the whole Mediterranean.
• Carry out an analysis of existing information for each important theme, define the limits of the knowledge, and propose main lines of research to fill the gaps.
• On the basis of the above, to propose priority sites for conservation, concerning all important factors (habitats, species, geological structures and hydrodynamic features).
The results of this workshop, the criteria, and the thematic analyses will be discussed during a second workshop planned for October 2009, and should be distributed or presented at international forums, such as the Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, due to take place in Marrakech (Morocco) in November 2009.