Thirty years after its creation, the Natura 2000 network in the Mediterranean EU countries is still little known, as evidenced by the Eurobarometer surveys published in 2019. Marine Natura 2000 sites were designated more recently than terrestrial ones; they are less identifiable at sea and generally not reported on nautical charts or web maps. The EU sea surface covered by marine Natura 2000 sites has progressively increased in recent years: more than 3,150 marine sites have been designated, covering almost 10% of the total EU marine area (over 550,000 km2). Until now, most attention has been focused on the designation of these sites, with little done to inform the public at large of their existence and to stimulate their protection.
The LIFE A-MAR NATURA2000 project involves marine Natura 2000 sites in the Mediterranean, in particular in Italy (288 sites) and Spain (272), with replication sites in France, Greece, Malta and Albania. The aim is to reduce impacts and pressures on these sites and change the behaviour of local stakeholders (fishermen, divers, tour operators, boaters, local organisations, residents, tourists, etc.). This will be achieved through the following specific objectives:
- Raising awareness among specific types of sea users about the existence, location and importance of marine Natura 2000 sites;
- Promotion of replicable good practices and eco-sustainable behaviours in the management of marine Natura 2000 sites;
- Promotion of active citizenship in knowledge and training for more effective and continuous monitoring of the marine environment;
- Training support for managers (and users) of marine Natura 2000 sites for more effective communication regarding their environmental values; and
- Improving stakeholders‘ and other users‘ knowledge about the marine Natura 2000 sites they visit, and increasing their commitment to nature conservation through citizen science initiatives.
The project is in line with the scope of several pieces of EU policy and legislation, namely the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Framework Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning, the Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive, the 2030 biodiversity strategy, the Water Framework Directive, the common fisheries policy and the integrated maritime policy.
- Level of knowledge about Mediterranean marine Natura 2000 sites increased by 20% among the main target stakeholders;
- 1 200 stakeholders and 6 million people as a whole reached through social media activities;
- Capacity of site managers and stakeholders for communicating marine Natura 2000 sites‘ values improved, through 24 training courses and 3 networking events with EU-funded projects and an EU Marine Expert Group;
- 60 000 people and 40 journalists reached through a sustainable sailing campaign at 40 marine Natura 2000 sites during 2 summer seasons in Italy and Spain;
- The first Natura 2000 regatta: 2 sailing race events reaching 6,400 VIPs, policy makers, influencers and entrepreneurs (in Italy only);
- At least 560 marine Natura 2000 sites disseminated (288 in Italy and 272 in Spain) via a dedicated communication campaign, app and website;
- More than 800 articles published in the media;
- 25 000 pieces of monitoring data collected on the 560 targeted marine Natura 2000 sites and published via the dedicated website/app;
- Replication strategy developed with a clear list of areas (at least 5 areas in 2 other countries) and stakeholders (at least 40 in 2 countries);
- Improved capacity of 80 stakeholders/marine Natura 2000 site managers from 4 countries targeted by replication activities (France, Greece, Malta and Albania); and
- Improved communication skills at the competent bodies (ministries and regions).