The Mediterranean Sea covers less than 1% of the global ocean, yet it hosts one of the planet’s greatest reservoirs of marine and coastal biodiversity. More than 10,000 species—nearly 30% of which are found nowhere else on Earth—live in these clear blue waters. Monk seals, sea turtles, tuna, dolphins, devil fish, and whales swim through a diversity of ecosystems along the sea’s shallow coastlines and within its deep waters.
The Mediterranean also connects more than half a billion people living throughout 21 countries and three continents surrounding the basin. Despite its economic, social, cultural, political, and biological importance, this delicate marine ecosystem faces significant threats from overfishing and other damaging fishing practices, pollution, habitat destruction, and water temperatures that are rising 20% faster than the global average amid a changing climate.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the primary tool for conserving marine ecosystems and can safeguard biodiversity and help build resilience against the impacts of climate change. These areas—particularly when highly or fully protected—can help safeguard biodiversity and boost fisheries and the economies that depend on them.
Today, only 0.2% of the Mediterranean’s waters are designated as fully or highly protected MPAs, compared with 2.4% of the global ocean.
Over the past decade, many countries have created large-scale, fully protected MPAs. Scientists, Indigenous peoples, community champions, nongovernmental organizations, and government leaders have called for the need to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030—a target many scientists say humanity must hit to secure the long-term health of our planet.
The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project is supporting collaborative efforts to establish a science-based network of highly and fully protected MPAs in the Mediterranean that connect and protect key habitats.