Marine Protected Areas

To achieve optimal results, marine protection must be based on science and embraced by the community.

By combining scientific marine research and innovative educational initiatives Save The Med works towards the creation and effective management of a network of carefully selected Marine Protected Areas in the Balearic sea.

A fragile Balearic sea

The Balearics Islands are one of the main tourist destinations in Europe. Their natural beauty attracts millions of visitors each year, swelling an already growing local population. Despite being home to some of the most abundant marine environments in the Mediterranean, the impact that expanding demographics, increasing mass tourism and human related activities such as overfishing, overconsumption and pollution have on the local marine environment is severe and has put fragile marine species and ecosystems in danger of decay.

As this development is expected to continue over time, the pressure from human-related activities on the marine environment - unless urgent action is taken - is highly likely to reach a point from which marine ecosystems will not be able to recover, eventually resulting in a collapse with inevitable consequences for all stakeholders.

The local government has put effort into increasing the number and area of marine protected areas (MPAs), with the positive results from El Toro marine reserve being one prime example of successful marine protection. Its positive effects on the fishing, yachting and tourism industry clearly demonstrate that economical growth is not only compatible with, but dependent upon, environmental care. 

To achieve effective marine protection and surveillance of MPAs, the government depends on science-based information from marine researchers and technicians. This is where Save The Med plays an important role. 

A fragile Balearic sea

A Network of Marine Protected Areas

Save The Med aims to help the government to develop an effective and well-managed network of carefully selected MPAs. A properly designed network will have environmental, economic, cultural & social benefits for the Balearics. 

To identify the optimal locations for new MPAs we work closely with a devoted team of experienced marine scientists, various scientific institutions and the local government. Our MPA-team conducts scientific surveys and studies possible new MPA sites, supplies survey data from dive expeditions and creates proposals and outlines required for the selection, declaration and management of new MPAs. 

Technical criteria need to be followed when choosing the number, location, design and management of new MPAs in order to optimise their potential benefits and the financial resources allocated to them. To maximise positive results it is crucial that new MPAs are selected based on objective scientific data and that the connectivity between selected areas is considered. 

To create a positive spill over effect in the in-between areas, the distance between MPAs is determined by taking into account important factors such as the distance of larvae dispersal. This will enable optimal selection of new MPAs, allowing marine ecosystems to recover and eventually resulting in a significant increase in biodiversity and fish stocks in the Balearic Sea.  

By basing MPA locations on scientific data, we ensure  protection and preservation of the most valuable and vulnerable species and ecosystems. 

A Network of Marine Protected Areas

Sa Dragonera Island Marine Reserve

Currently there are eleven marine reserves and one marine national park in the Balearic sea. The marine reserve es Freu de Sa Dragonera is a direct result of Save The Med's collaboration with the Balearic Government. 

In 2015 Save The Med (at the time being operating under the name Asociación Ondine) was asked by the government to supply scientific data and present a proposal for the management of a new MPA around the island of Sa Dragonera. The proposal, developed by our MPA-team, served as a base for the declaration of the new marine reserve in October 2016. 

The Parliament of the Balearic Islands approved the Law 6/2013 on sea fishing, shellfish and aquaculture in the Balearic Islands, which, among other things, stipulates guidelines for planning and managing marine reserves of the Balearic archipelago. In this regard, the Directorate General for Fisheries and Medi Marí of the Government of the Balearic Islands expressed interest in our project "A Network of Balearic Islands Marine Protected Areas: Effective marine protection based on science", which aims to establish scientific criteria for the creation of a Network of MPAs in the Balearic Islands. In addition, our organisation was chosen to represent the institutions of nature conservation in the "Monitoring Commission" of the Sa Dragonera marine reserve.

We now work towards the inclusion of Sa Dragonera's external waters, which are under the jurisdiction of the Spanish government, into the marine reserve. Simultaneously we work to involve local communities in the protection of their MPA and continue with the planning and execution of our upcoming scientific expeditions in new areas in need of protection.


Sa Dragonera Island Marine Reserve

The 'Discover your MPA Sa Dragonera' project

While we all depend on healthy seas, the state of our seas also depends on us. We believe that involvement of local communities is key to achieving lasting marine protection. When a Marine Protected Area is well managed it entails a list of positive benefits for the environment, the communities that live near the area and its’ visitors.

Therefore, during 2019/2020, with support of the Marilles Foundation Save the Med will implement a new pilot project called “Discover your MPA Sa Dragonera”. The aim of this new project is to invite the communities of Sant Elm, Port Andratx, S'Arraco and Andratx participate and take ownership of a new, community-driven campaign that optimizes the conservation of the Marine Protected Area of Sa Dragonera.

The purpose of the campaign is to strengthen the connection between the people who live around Sa Dragonera and their Marine Protected Area. By highlighting all the benefits of a well-managed Marine Protected Area for stakeholders, neighbours and visitors, and co-creating cultural and educational events and activities the campaign aims to inspire and empower the broader community to actively care for the underwater environment surrounding their homes.

As a first collaborative activity Save The Med launched the PhotoCollab in July 2019. This photographic collaboration, contrary to a competition,  encouraged people to join forces and together participate in the active care for their marine reserve by photographing the biodiversity of Sa Dragonera. Their joint efforts will reveal Sa Dragonera marine reserve’s fascinating life through the creation and exhibition of a big collage of photos, sent in by the participants and composed by the local artist Emma Glinski. In addition, your photo will feature in the marine reserve’s species database, showcasing Sa Dragonera’s richness and biodiversity. The exhibition will be open to everyone during the month of November and combined with activities for children and youth. 

The  'Discover your MPA Sa Dragonera' project

Formentor Expedition

In November 2017 we began surveying 21km of Mallorcas coastline in the area of Formentor. After a winter of rough winds and a much needed boat repair, we could finalise our field work in August 2018.

The focus of these scientific expeditions were areas of high biodiversity which contain highly sensitive species and habitats that are in need of protection. In addition to 51 dives during which underwater surveying of marine habitats, local algae, fish and invertebrate communities were conducted, a series of interviews were done with local stakeholders, including professional fishermen and divers to capture their knowledge about the area.

The acquired data is now being analysed and will result in a written proposal to the Balearic and Spanish Environmental Authorities for the optimal location of a new marine reserve, based on scientific criteria and sustainability.