Shoal of barracudas (Sphyraena) photographed during a dive at El Toro’s buoy 6, at a very shallow depth. | Miquel Gomila
More than 70 countries worldwide and all European Union countries have committed to protecting at least 30% of the marine surface by 2030; and also to strictly protect – with a high level of protection – at least 10% of the entire marine surface by 2030. So that we understand each other, to achieve these objectives in 7 years, Spain would have to have at least 3 out of every 10 km2 of marine area under some form of protection; and at least 1 out of every 10 km2 of marine area highly protected.
What does highly protected mean? For us, it is clear: a level of protection equivalent, or very close, to that of an integral reserve, i.e., marine sanctuaries where there is no resource extraction and where human activities (e.g., diving, navigation) are highly regulated. The figures 30% and 10% are not a whim; they have a strong scientific basis. The evidence shows that this is the minimum we should protect to reverse biodiversity loss and to have any hope of recovering what we have already lost.
These perfectly achievable objectives represent a medium- to long-term investment. We know that for every €1 invested in a marine protected area (MPA) we get a wellspring of benefits. Better protection of our sea guarantees the fishing performance of both the professional and recreational fleets, it improves the quality of the bathers' or sailors' experience, and it is a source of multiple economic activities. And as if all this were not enough, MPAs are essential to cushioning the impacts of climate change, as they increase the chances of survival of some species due to the warming of our waters, which is undoubtedly the biggest challenge we face.
The Balearic Islands have more than 20% of our sea under protection and with prospects to increase this in the coming years, so we are convinced that we will achieve the 30x30 objective and beyond. But we have only 0.2% of our sea under high protection, 50 times less than the 10% we need to achieve in just 7 years. We will have to get our act together and work to get civil society, and the public and private sectors fully involved to achieve this.
Last week, the Balearic government expressed loud and clear its commitment to the 30x30 and 10x30 targets for marine protection, and even the ambition to be the first region in Europe to achieve them. We hope that this commitment will last over time, regardless of political colours, and that it will spread along the entire Spanish and Mediterranean coastline.