If you had to protect the Balearic Sea where would you start? And if you had a limited budget to invest (as is always the case) what would you fund? This is the dilemma that founders like Marilles Foundation face. A privileged dilemma to have, but a difficult one to crack. As a not-for-profit private foundation working to protect the Balearic Sea, our ultimate goal is to ensure that every euro spent maximizes its impact in terms of marine conservation returns.
In order to do this, we consult with experts who have the most up to date knowledge, analyse the policy and legal context and talk to local actors to identify who is best placed to deliver a particular task in the most effective way. Things are not always simple, everybody has their own story to tell, often conflicting ones and this is why it is so important to contrast opinions, engage with as many people as possible, and know how to balance different views.
Throughout years of research and experience on the ground we have acquired excellent knowledge about what is happening in the Balearic Sea, what are the main threats and pressures on the marine environment, and what needs to be done to fix them - the barriers to progress and how to overcome them. This puts us in a privileged position to assess where private and public funds should be allocated for maximum impact and this is why we are always open to advise any other potential founders willing to do their bit to ensure the long-term conservation of these beautiful waters.
Following an extensive evaluation review of our work and close consultation with more than 50 people early 2021 we have defined four strategic priorities for the period 2021-2025: 1) improving and expanding marine protected areas 2) transform professional and recreational fishing fleets to become the most sustainable ones in the Med 3) Protecting and restoring vulnerable habitats and species such as sharks and rays, and shallow water bays 4) improving the quality of our waters.
Dr Enric (Kike) Ballesteros from the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes – CSIC is one of the people who has helped us most to define conservation priorities and targets since the very early days of the Foundation, even before it was established.
Dr Ballesteros is a world-leading expert in marine biodiversity for the Mediterranean region and a member of the scientific team of National Geographic Pristine Seas programme. With more than 10,000 dives in the Balearic waters over the past four decades he is probably the person who knows best the marine habitats and species that inhabit the Balearic Sea. He knows how it was, how it has changed and above all, how things could look if we revert certain pressures.
Last week Marilles Foundation invited Kike Ballesteros to Palma. We asked him to share his vision for the Balearic Sea and to identify key priorities for conservation. Throughout his brilliant lecture at the Col.legi d’Advocats de Balears in front more than 100 people he guided us throughout the most valuable, rare, and most biological diverse habitats that exist in Balearic waters such as coraligenous seabed, gorgonian walls and posidonia reefs amongst many others. He laid out the criteria that should be followed in order to prioritise conservation targets and presented his proposal for declaring 30% of the Balearic Sea as an MPA including 10% as a no-take-zone.
This conservation roadmap is already embedded in the Marilles strategy and action plan for the next five years. Many thanks Kike for sharing your wisdom and we hope to have you back in Mallorca very soon.