UNESCO has officially approved Menorca’s local government’s application to extend the boundaries of the Biosphere Reserve zone to also cover its surrounding marine habitats, up to 12 nautical miles out to sea. Making the island the biggest Biosphere Reserve in the Mediterranean.
Since 1993, Menorca has proudly been labeled a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve thanks to the abundant variety of indigenous plants, animals, fish, forests and wetlands, which are prime ecosystems for scientific and natural interest.
Menorca is considered to have one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems of all the Mediterranean islands, boasting nearly 250 species of birds, 1000 species of both endemic and foreign plants, as well as an estimated 628 species of seaweed, fish and shellfish according to recent scientific projects carried out by local organisations, such as OBSAM.
As a result, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve title has allowed better protection of not only the natural habitats that exist, but also the extensive archaeological heritage of the island.
However, although the UNESCO distinction covers wetlands, marsh, streams, beaches and islets, and dune areas such as the Albufera Natural Park in Es Grau, a further five natural reserves and two marine reserves, the Biosphere Reserve zone only covered the land.
Given that the sea is a hugely vital habitat for a number of important flora and fauna including Posidonia Oceanica and Cymodocea, red coral, seaweeds, fish and crustaceans, the need for greater marine conservation has become a hot topic for the local government and organisations, as well as the projects we fund at the MEPF.
Pollution, illegal fishing, environmental damage and little or no marine management have created the need for more definite strategies for sustainability and conservation of the sea than ever before. One of these strategies, recently presented by the Consell Insular (local government) to help better monitor and protect these important ecosystems, was the extension and re-zoning of the Menorca Biosphere Reserve towards the sea, increasing the area covered by this statusfrom 70-thousand to 500-thousand hectares.
The proposal created by the Social and the Scientific Council of the Biosphere Reserve, the General Board of Sustainability of the Coast and Sea for the Ministry for the Ecological Transition of the Government of Spain, as well as of the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries of the Balearic Government, took into consideration the results of scientific and technical studies in order to present their case at the International Coordination Council (ICC).
The ICC is an annual meeting where the international agency incorporates new biosphere reserves into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program.
The MEPF is happy to say that UNESCO approved the proposal in the June 2019 ICC meeting, and the decision means that the new demarcation lines encompassing Menorca will make the island the largest Marine Biosphere Reserve in the Mediterranean.
Commenting on the Menorca Biosphere Reserve web, Susana Mora, the Acting President at the Consell Insular (local government), stated; “from the Council’s office we take up this new demand with responsibility and taking a challenge to global climate change in order to turn our land and marine territory into a benchmark in the field of sustainability and balance policies between human activity and environment “.
As a Biosphere Reserve, it is considered vital to encourage a stronger concept of sustainable development of the landscape and waters. This means human activity develops responsibly alongside the vital conservation of natural resources and heritage.
The extension will help contribute to the conservation of the marine system and will enable the creation of new sustainability policies, so that future generations of residents and visitors can continue to enjoy the natural resources and beautiful wildlife in and around the island.
To read the official proposal (in Spanish) for the extension of the Marine Biosphere Reserve, click here…
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