The arrival of European funds to stimulate the economy and address the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, is just around the corner. How we invest these funds in the coming years will make the difference between going back to ‘business as usual’ or starting to transform our economy to make it more resilient to the triple challenge of economic, ecological and social change.
The conservation of the Balearic Sea is key to a solid and long-term economic recovery, to mitigating the effects of climate change, and to strengthening key industries for the islands such as tourism, fishing and the nautical sector.
The crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of the Balearic Islands due to their high dependence on tourism, and it is normal that voices are raised calling for greater diversification of the Balearic Islands’ industry in order to reduce our foreign dependence and vulnerability. It is important to move in this direction and lay the foundations for a long-term change, while at the same time, we find ourselves in the middle of a huge crisis and it is unquestionable that the fastest way to recover the economy and generate much-needed jobs will be through the revival of the tourism sector. However this must not be done at any cost. It must be done pointing in the right direction - Growing in quality and not in quantity; favouring forms of tourism which add more economic value and fewer social and environmental impacts. That means more nature and wildlife tourism and less party tourism.
The Balearic Islands have an exceptional natural capital. European funds bring to the opportunity to improve the state of their marine and coastal environment and position the Balearics as a sustainable destination on a Mediterranean level. A few months ago we proposed seven lines of action in which to invest European funds to recover our economy while improving the sea and the Balearic coast. Now that projects are in development process and governments start to choose their investment priorities it is time to put them back on the table:
First, invest in the improvement and expansion of marine protected areas, which have great potential to generate many more benefits than they already give us, such as more fish, more income for the fisherman, and multiple opportunities for the local economy.
Second, transform the fishing fleet into the most sustainable in the Mediterranean by replacing harmful gear with other equipment that is less harmful, and better distributing the fishing effort in space and time in order to earn more by fishing less, as is already the case with the “llampuga” (mahi-mahi) fishery.
Third, improving the treatment and distribution of water to put an end once and for all to the dumping of dirty sewage, the most vulnerable issue in the recovery of tourism in the Balearic Islands.
Fourth, train an army of environmental educators and encourage the creation of small enterprises to increase the offering of marine educational activities of which there are very few in the Balearics but for which there is a growing demand.
Fifth, involve the tourism sector in the conservation, restoration and cleaning of coastal ecosystems, helping to re-position Balearics as a truly sustainable destination.
Sixth, fund conservation programmes of vulnerable species including sperm whales, turtles, rays, sharks and seagrass Posidonia, indicators of good environmental quality and the foundation for nature tourism with great potential, but still underdeveloped in these islands.
Seventh, double or treble efforts in marine research because without good and reliable information and data we cannot move forward.
We need an investment program aimed at protecting our marine and coastal environment. A program to revive the economy by protecting the Balearic sea. Protecting the sea can help us out of the economic crisis. We’ll keep working to ensure that the projects that are being designed at the moment take this into account.