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Title: AMAre – Actions for Marine Protected Areas

Start date: 1 November 2016

End date: 31 October 2019

Coordinator: Prof. Aldo Drago

AMAREMalta is taking hold of the presidency of the Council of the European Union at a time when environmental, economic and societal issues concerning the oceans are reaching a mature stage on the policy agenda in Europe. This process was triggered in 2007 by the “Blue Book” for an Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) advocating a holistic approach to maritime issues across different policy areas. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) comprising the harmonization of human activities in marine areas subsequently came into action as a powerful means to manage the intensive use of maritime space with minimal cumulative impacts and user conflicts. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) set the tangible goals to achieve Good Environmental Status for all EU marine waters by 2020. This has culminated to the active current engagement of the European Commission to improve international governance of the oceans and seas, and to promote sustainable Blue Growth.

This is the setting within which the MED Programme 2015 project AMAre (Actions for Marine Protected Areas) has been conceived to aid Mediterranean countries in this process by specifically developing shared methodologies and geospatial tools for multiple stressors assessment, coordinated environmental monitoring, multi criteria analyses and stakeholders' engagements in the management of marine protected areas. Concrete pilot actions and coordinated strategies in selected Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including the North East MPA in Malta, are placed to solve hot spots of conflicts affecting marine biodiversity and the services it provides. Transnational cooperation and regulations, development of coordinated best practices to deal with present and future drivers of changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services, coordinated monitoring, data access to share information and concrete stakeholder and users’ involvement are the expected results.

The approach goes beyond existing practice across the basin, where, despite the presence of excellent examples of effective MPAs, the transition from single isolated MPAs to networks sharing a holistic vision of managing human uses is still far to be achieved. MPA managers, public institutions, and key stakeholders working within the MPAs will benefit from the results of the project. The ultimate aim is to share strategies and recommendations at transnational level across the whole Mediterranean.

The first major outcome of this 3-year project is the setting up of a web GIS geodatabase shared at a transnational level and providing an exhaustive and integrated data platform in four key MPAs. This MPA geodata portal will store and manage data for monitoring, biodiversity, environmental data, data related to human activities, regulations and uses that potentially impact the environmental components. The spatial database will provide a tool for managing and networking the protected areas, homogenizing and standardizing the data relevant to the monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

AMAre includes twelve high profile partners from five Mediterranean countries – Italy, France, Greece, Malta and Spain and is led by the National Inter-University Consortium for Marine Sciences (CoNISMa, Italy). Besides the participation in all the other project activities, the Physical Oceanography Research Group is responsible for coordinating Work Package 4. The objective of this work package is to use guidelines, methodologies and indicators for the assessment and management of present and future multiple stressors (e.g. marine litter). It also aims to launch pilot activities in selected MPAs included in the project. Malta will host a Technical Committee meeting in October 2017.

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