In 2016 the waters between the island of Sa Dragonera and Mallorca were declared a marine protected area (MPA) and named “the marine reserve of Freu de Sa Dragonera.” This year, in the beginning of November, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food declared a new marine reserve of fishing interest in the external waters of the island of Sa Dragonera. With this new declaration, the previously protected area of 912 hectares was extended with another 457 hectares, which are divided into three zones of different degrees of protection.
At Save The Med we celebrate the new marine reserve and are very happy to have been able to contribute to this process along with many other groups and individuals from the Andratx community who pushed for its protection during many years. We especially remember and wish to honor the efforts of Fernando Garfella Palmer to achieve the protection of this area.
While these are some very positive news, the declaration is only the first step. It is now that the real work begins to ensure that the area is not only protected on paper, but in action. If done correctly, a well managed and well functioning MPA around Dragonera can provide benefits for all. We highlight some of them below, but to achieve them it is not only vigilance that is important! It is also community!
Benefits on a national level
The new marine reserve of Sa Dragonera is now part of the “Network of Marine Protected Areas of Spain (RAMPE)”, and contributes to the Global Network of Marine Protected Areas within the framework of the United Nations and the Convention on Biological Diversity. In part, also helps fulfil some of the obligations required of Spain as Contracting Party to numerous international agreements, conventions and protocols and as a Member State of the European Union.
Benefits on a local level
When an MPA is well managed and well functioning, it provides a series of important benefits for the local community. In the case of the marine reserve of Sa Dragonera these could include:
Increased biodiversity and natural value: The expansion of the protected area is expected to allow more species to regenerate, resulting in a well-represented community of flora and fauna, underwater as well as above the surface as sea birds depend on a healthy marine environment. Well-balanced and thriving marine ecosystems are healthier and more resilient in the face of external stressors such as for example increasing temperatures.
Social benefits: It is well known that MPAs provide beautiful spaces for outdoor activities and can be an opportunity for a community to work together for their protection, to grow closer and thrive. But did you know that they can also help the community become more resilient in times of economic challenges and climate change? A well-functioning MPA can both help provide food and income for local communities and mitigate climate change!
Economic and cultural benefits: Restored fish stocks in and around the MPA can result in a stable income for local small scale fishermen and their families over generations, while also contributing fresh and responsibly caught fish for the community and food serving businesses. Areas with rich biodiversity tend to attract tourists, scuba divers, snorkelers, kayakers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts benefiting a broad variety of local businesses who depend on tourism.
Educational benefits: The marine reserve of Sa Dragonera offers wonderful opportunities to learn about both the land and marine environment and how they are interconnected and dependent on each other. Educational hikes, boat tours and dive activities can all be done in the area and adapted to groups of all ages!
Scientific benefits: A specific part of 82 hectares of the new MPA has been declared an integral MPA, meaning that no activities are allowed inside this zone. This type of “no-take” areas provide the marine species a chance to recover without any human impacts and allow scientists to use this area as a baseline for monitoring and comparing the results of different types of protection to ensure maximal efficiency and restoration potential.
Local communities have a crucial role in the lasting protection of the MPA
A conscious community who understands the intrinsic values and community benefits of the MPA is key for its long term protection. Vigilance is only a small part. By understanding and respecting the rules and regulations and helping others to do the same, communities can develop a sense of joint custody and help to protect the MPA.
“The Blue Dragonera Network”
We already see this happening in the area around Dragonera through the community project “Discover Your MPA Sa Dragonera”, launched in 2019 with the financial support of the Marilles Foundation, and the Xarxa Dragonera Blava, meaning “The Blue Dragonera Network”. Xarxa Dragonera Blava is a community network of businesses, organisations and individuals who offer activities, share initiatives and/or want to connect to work together to promote their local MPA. Join @xarxadragonerablava on Instagram to learn about existing initiatives and/or to share your own!