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One hundred scientists and managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) from 18 European countries met in Palma this week to share the results of the European Interreg MED projects MPA NETWORKS and MPA Engage. From 14 to 17 June, MedPAN, the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and Marilles Foundation hosted this event in a hybrid format.

It is no coincidence that the Balearic Islands are the Mediterranean capital of MPAs. With 20% of the sea protected, one of the largest National Parks in the Mediterranean, and a network of marine reserves that are helping to improve fish populations, the Balearic Islands can be a leader in marine protection at the Mediterranean level. However, we have a lot of homework to do and a lot to learn. For example, the highly protected surface of the Balearic Sea is 50 times smaller than it should be in 2030 and we have less than 8 years to achieve this.

MPAs are an essential tool for the conservation of the sea. While we have a solid network of MPAs, we must expand and improve this network to maximise its potential. Key concepts right now are vigilance, follow-up, coordination, participation, and investment.

This final event saw discussions of the key results and recommendations of these two European projects that focused on key issues for MPAs: management effectiveness, small-scale fisheries management, conservation of mobile species, sustainable financing, and adaptation to climate change. Participants contributed to expanding the solutions identified in the projects and voiced key recommendations for decision-makers for the benefit of the entire community of Mediterranean MPAs.

The project, 85% funded by the Interreg MED programme and coordinated by MedPAN, brought together ten Mediterranean partners, mainly MPA management bodies from seven countries: Albania, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain.

In addition to organising the final event, Marilles played a very prominent role in the MPA NETWORKS project. The results of the study in Cala Rajada-Llevant — which show that €10 of profit is generated for each €1 invested in this MPA — have had international repercussions, and the methodology is being used in other parts of the Mediterranean.

By 2025, the Balearics could have an MPA network that guarantees the future of professional fishing, differentiates a tourist model that is authentically sustainable, is a source of leisure and wellness, and reinforces numerous economic activities. This is what we are working towards.