Mediterranean countries agreed today to legally protect endangered cold-water corals in the Mediterranean Sea from harmful human activity at a UN environment meeting in Albania. The 22 members of the Barcelona Convention voted in favour of including four additional coral species – cockscomb cup coral, yellow-tree coral, yellow coral and bamboo coral – to the list (Annex II) of endangered or threatened species in the Mediterranean Sea. This decision will also help to ensure the survival of marine life that live and depend on these underwater coral gardens.
“Getting these species listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened’ in the Barcelona Convention is a big breakthrough for ocean health and conservation in the Mediterranean Sea. All these corals are at risk of extinction, so this really is a lifeline to underwater ecosystems, with the most iconic of deep-sea corals now protected under international law”, said Ricardo Aguilar, Senior Research Director at Oceana in Europe.
At the 4-day Barcelona Convention meeting in Tirana, ministers and heads of delegation also signed a ministerial declaration to encourage further marine conservation in the Mediterranean. The Tirana Ministerial Declaration contains, among others, regional-wide commitments on marine litter management and on working towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It also encourages the Contracting Parties to speed up the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) for the Mediterranean Sea.
“One of the most effective ways to protect vulnerable or threatened with extinction deep-sea species is by declaring more marine protected areas (MPAs). Currently, only 7% of the Mediterranean has MPA coverage. Sadly, this is nowhere near enough, but the Tirana Declaration is a chance for the region’s countries to turn words into action and create more MPAs to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for the oceans”, added Aguilar.