Participants at the IDEM project workshop on assessment of the Mediterranean deep-sea environmental status, held at the University of Malta’s Valletta Campus between 5 and 7 September. One of the main outcomes of this workshop was the Valletta Declaration.
A step forward in the assessment and protection of the deep Mediterranean Sea
Seas and oceans are essential for human wellbeing, providing food, energy, raw materials and leisure space, and representing a medium for transport and commerce. However, the oceans are neither inexhaustible nor immune to overexploitation and harm. In the context of rapid global change and human population growth, it is imperative to balance economic benefit with safeguarding the natural capital and ecosystem services provided by the ocean. This is particularly evident and challenging in landlocked seas like the Mediterranean.
In this context, the Valletta Declaration, sets a vision for addressing the important challenges presented by the implementation of the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in the deep Mediterranean Sea, which accounts for about 80% of the total Mediterranean seafloor area.
The Valletta Declaration was one of the main outcomes of a workshop held in Malta between 5 and 7 September, at University of Malta’s Valletta Campus, as part of the IDEM project. IDEM (Implementation of the MSFD to the Deep Mediterranean Sea) is an EU-funded project with nine partner institutions from six countries: Cyprus, France, Italy, Israel, Malta, and Spain, including the Department of Biology of the University of Malta. The workshop, titled “First assessment of the deep Mediterranean environmental status”, brought together the IDEM partners and representatives from other EU-funded projects concerned with the MSFD, as well as agencies and research centres from different Mediterranean counties, to assess the environmental status of the deep Mediterranean sea and progress in implementing the MSFD in deep waters.
Following a round-table discussion during the workshop, the research community present called on EU Member and Associated States, the European Commission and European Parliament to support the following actions:
1) A transnational cooperation to build synergies in research efforts, mostly when it comes to less explored southern parts of the Mediterranean basin, and especially its high seas and deep-sea regions.
2) Building capacity and standardisation of future data collected, highlighting the need for developing a wide and standardized monitoring strategy for the Mediterranean deep sea.
3) The need for a holistic approach across the entire Mediterranean Sea, to define criteria for high-seas and deep-sea Marine Protected Areas and to collaborate with non-EU States, especially the southern and middle-eastern Mediterranean countries.
This call for action was published as the Valletta Declaration, and represents a real step forward in the assessment and protection of the deep Mediterranean Sea.
The scientists working on the MSFD in the Mediterranean Basin present in Malta emphasized that this is not only an opportunity to render the implementation of the EU-MSFD in the Mediterranean area more efficient, but a real and impelling necessity, since Mediterranean marine ecosystems are tightly connected, do not follow political boundaries, and are experiencing unprecedented changes in their structure and functioning.