Fundación Biodiversidad, the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO), partner of LIFE A-MAR NATURA2000, has launched activities aimed at improving knowledge and awareness of the marine areas of the Natura 2000 Network in the Spanish Mediterranean. Since the start of the project, capacity building sessions have been held for stakeholders involved in education and governance in these areas of high ecological value. In addition, the navigation campaign and its associated activities, one of the most important milestones of LIFE A-MAR, will start in 2024.
In recent years, the protection of marine ecosystems in Spain has experienced a strong boost with the declaration of new marine protected areas, the Natura 2000 Network being one of the most important. Just a few weeks ago, Spain increased the area of the protected sea by more than 9.3 million hectares thanks to the incorporation of 7 new areas into the Natura 2000 Network, bringing the protected marine area under Spanish jurisdiction to 21%. The goal is to reach 30% by 2030, a commitment set out in the European Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the Government’s Declaration on Climate and Environmental Emergency and the Global Oceans Alliance.
In this context, collaboration with LIFE A-MAR represents a great opportunity to improve Spanish society’s knowledge and appreciation of protected marine areas, especially the Natura 2000 Network. It also boosts the awareness-raising work that the Biodiversity Foundation has been carrying out through other projects, such as LIFE+ INDEMARES, which has already concluded, and LIFE INTEMARES, which is currently underway. Both have a solid focus on the development of science and social participation in the marine environment.
Within the framework of LIFE A-MAR, 8 capacity building sessions on the Natura 2000 Network have been held so far, reaching 267 people. Part of the training sessions was aimed at educational bodies and teachers so that they can integrate the educational project “The school travels the ocean with Natura and Marina” into their classrooms. The second part of training sessions focused on governance in the Natura 2000 Network. It was aimed at companies that carry out whale-watching activities and civil servants from public administrations with competence in the management of Natura 2000 marine network areas, such as the Civil Guard Maritime Service and the Maritime Safety and Rescue Society (SASEMAR). A specific session for staff from the Environmental Prosecutor’s Office and delegated prosecutors is planned for February this year.
All these training actions have been financed by the Recovery, Transition and Resilience Plan, financed by NextGeneration-EU funds.
In 2024, a sailing campaign is planned and includes the visit of several marine areas of the Natura 2000 Network in the five Spanish autonomous communities located in the Mediterranean basin or with part of their coastline in it. These regions are Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Murcia and Andalusia. In line with the nautical tour carried out in Italy, and enhancing synergy with their experience, the Spanish campaign will include information and awareness-raising activities through guided tours, participatory meetings and educational activities aimed at socio-economic sectors, such as recreational and professional fishing, tourist operators and the nautical-recreational sector, among others, as well as the local population. In addition, citizen science workshops will be carried out to promote the participation of citizens and the scientific community in increasing knowledge about impacts, habitats and species found within the Natura 2000 marine network.
Finally, work has also begun on the creation of a mobile application to visualize the 129 Natura 2000 Network sites in the Spanish Mediterranean and to learn about their natural values.