The environmental state of the Mediterranean Sea region will not improve until there is the political will to enforce current and future environment legislation, says a new report, launched today.
"Priority issues in the Mediterranean Environment", a joint report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), was launched at a meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention, taking place in Portoroz, Slovenia. The report, which scans existing and emerging pollution issues, draws a picture at the regional level but also provides a profile for each Mediterranean country.
As well as pollution from land-based activities and shipping, the report covers emerging threats to the region's ecosystem. These include the rapid expansion of aquaculture - the farming of shellfish and fish, the introduction of new species and continuous biological invasions by harmful algae blooms.
Tougher legislation is needed to combat the environmental challenges facing the Mediterranean region. However, without the political will of the countries involved, existing and future legislation will remain ineffective, the report says.
"The Mediterranean, the biggest tourist destination on earth, is under a process of habitat destruction and physical alteration that might go beyond what we have observed. While the rate of exploitation of marine resources seems to have stabilised, the extent of the damage is alarming," says Professor, Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA. "The number one priority in environmental management in the Mediterranean region is to enforce the existing environmental legislation", Professor McGlade says.
The main problem in southern and eastern Mediterranean countries is the inadequate treatment of urban waste; a problem exacerbated by the growth in tourism. Here, there is a lack of technologies and economic conditions to deal with environmental issues. In the northern countries, the biggest issue is pollution from chemicals, the report says.
"The report could be used to focus on alternative policy options to help regional and national policy makers develop priority policy actions that would have a positive effect on the Mediterranean marine environment," says Paul Mifsud, Coordinator of UNEP/MAP.
Mr. Mifsud stated that he is looking forward to the entry into force of the LBS Protocol - the most important regional legal instrument addressing land-based sources of pollution - at a time when new challenges are emerging, threatening the marine environment. All of the participating countries have prepared their National Action Plans aimed at gradually reducing and eventually eliminating pollution from land, Mr Mifsud said. These plans are expected to receive formal endorsement by the Contracting Parties in Portoroz.