SAIS-EBSA Conservation Community (SECC): An opportunity to keep working towards biodiversity conservation and foster multilevel cross-border cooperation

Last 31 May and 1 June 2022, relevant stakeholders (SPA-RAC, PAP/RAC, EUSAIR TSG3, FAO, and national, regional & local authorities) and MBPC project’s partners met in Dubrovnik to consider a potential governance mechanism and action plan for the SAIS-EBSA (South Adriatic Ionian Straight Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area).

Following the 2019 workshop “Managing Transboundary Impacts In Priority Areas: Towards an Action Plan for Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) in the Southern Adriatic Sea Ecoregion” and the 2021 workshop on “Managing Transboundary Priority Areas: Towards a governance mechanism on the conservation of the south Adriatic-Ionian marine ecosystem”, this event focused on the challenges and opportunities of the implementation of the SAIS-EBSA action plan. To begin with, Dania Abdul Malak, Director of the European Topic Centre of the University of Malaga, recalled the importance of the workshop and the urgency to act “We need and hope to create the SAIS-EBSA Conservation Community (SECC) to achieve concrete biodiversity protection actions”.

Then, Caterina Fortuna (ISPRA) reminded the two key questions of the debate: How to move beyond the recognition of the SAIS-EBSA as an ecologically important area and assist national authorities to prioritise conservation policies fostering a multilevel governance approach? How to mainstream conservation for positive coexistence between nature and economic actors in the region, building existing governance initiatives?

Jelka Tepsic, Deputy Mayor Dubrovnik

During the first day, the current state of the SAIS-EBSA was presented, as well as all the different actors who play a key role in the area. In fact, the challenges identified in the South Adriatic Ionian Straight Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area are several. It is both oceanographically and geopolitically complex, characterized by its uniqueness, and hosts significant habitats such as deep-sea cold-water corals, deep-sea sponge, devil ray, striped dolphin, loggerhead turtle, tunas, sharks, and birds. However, it also hosts multiple threats from many different economic sectors (maritime shipping, tourism, fishing, and oil-gas exploration – and future exploitation), which endanger the biodiversity. With this in mind, the question to answer moves to how to engage and find a consensus between the different sectors to protect the biodiversity in this area? As it was reiterated several times, the EU Biodiversity Strategy aims for the legal protection of at least 30% of the EU's seas by 2030.

To support a fruitful and balanced discussion and integrate the principles of transboundary and multilevel governance, various stakeholders participated and exchanged their research work, opinions and involvement, such as national authorities (Croatia and Montenegro Ministries), concerned regional representatives (Western Greece and Puglia), DG Environment, Blue World Institute Croatia, Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), CPMR IMC (Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions), UNEP/MAP-SPA/RAC, MedCities, MedPAN.

The second day focused on the integration of systematic conservation measures into the SAIS-EBSA. Therefore, it was the opportunity to exchange views about the potential scenarios and the importance of transboundary management to protect the biodiversity as recalled by Emiliano Ramieri (CNR-ISMAR) “Scenarios are a way of understanding the future and our alternatives in terms of sustainable management. We cannot impose decrease, but we can advocate measures”.

A roundtable opened proposals regarding the next steps in the implementation of a governance mechanism for the area. An engaged community is being built, with the support and commitment of national and regional representatives as well as through closer cooperation between UNEP/MAP SPA-RAC, PAP-RAC and the EUSAIR TSG3 (Environmental Pillar). To move forward concrete conservation measures, the stakeholders specifically identified the need of an involvement by regional sectoral bodies such as the fishery and maritime traffic sectors.

In overall, this workshop allowed to have fruitful discussions about next steps. Finally, it was mentioned that the MBPC Final Event will take place in the beginning of November 2022 at the EU Parliament, a good occasion to advocate and showcase the progress on the SAIS-EBSA case.

More information and agenda from the event here.