Turning the Balearics into a
beacon of marine conservation

The Balearic Islands are host to one of the best preserved marine environments in the Mediterranean.

The frequency and size of valuable species such as groupers, spiny lobster, and breams are higher than in most places in the Mediterranean, benefiting both artisanal fisheries and the diving sector. Despite its relative good health, the Balearics marine and coastal environment is extremely vulnerable to multiple pressures, mainly from fisheries and tourism-related activities such as coastal development, wastewater pollution, and anchoring.

Plastics and marine litter are also a growing concern. Marine legislation is in place. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are growing in size and number but there is not enough control and enforcement to ensure their effectiveness. Monitoring and data collection systems are ineffective.

If these threats are not addressed now, one of the few remaining biodiversity hotspots in the Mediterranean will reach a critical point of irreversible degradation.

Most of the economic activities that put pressure on the marine environment also depend on its good health. The Marilles Foundation strongly believes that it is possible to combine a healthy marine environment with economic prosperity and, by doing so, turn the Balearics into a beacon of marine conservation.

About us

In the course of the past two years, this new initiative has been established aimed at improving the marine and coastal environment in the Balearic Islands. The initial idea became more clearly defined and was shaped as a result of the lessons learned about threats, pressures and opportunities, in cooperation with stakeholders from each of the islands.
This process resulted in the creation of a new foundation: Marilles Foundation for the conservation of the Balearic Sea. The foundation’s vision, mission and strategic direction are based upon an initial scoping study and many conversations, meetings and workshops with representatives from multiple sectors.
The Marilles Foundation hopes to be able to facilitate and catalyze a collaborative effort of the island’s civil society and private sector that can effectively address the current pressures on the marine environment. Its aspiration is that the vision, strategy and direction laid down in this document is increasingly owned by all those citizens and organizations working to turn this vision into reality: the Balearics as a beacon of marine conservation

Looking ahead to the Balearics in 2030, we see marine and coastal habitats containing abundant marine life and healthy fish stocks in a highly densely populated and economically prosperous region.

This entails:

1.  Higher levels of biodiversity in marine and coastal habitats
2.  An effective network of marine protected areas covering a significant proportion of the Balearic Sea
3.  Professional fishermen making a decent living while adopting low-impact gear and practices
4.  Locals and tourists enjoying recreational fishing with low impact on fish populations
5.  Boats and yachts across the coast and sea with near-zero impact on Posidonia meadows, water quality, sea turtles, and marine mammals
6.  Divers and swimmers enjoying high water quality and visibility levels because of reduced pollution levels
7.  Beaches and coastal areas free of plastic and other debris
8.  Greater numbers of tourists attracted by the quality of marine and coastal habitats
9.  Tourism companies recognizing the marine environment as critical to their success and intervening to preserve this asset
10.  More of the local population engaged in the conservation of their marine environment

Turning the Balearics into a beacon of marine conservation is an ambitious goal.
These principles are at the core of this initiative:

Island-led: Putting the wealth of knowledge, expertise, and entrepreneurship that exists on each of the islands at the core of this initiative using strategies and action plans co-developed and implemented by local actors.
Inclusive and open dialogue: Bringing together partners from various backgrounds to join forces and share a common vision and goals will require an open dialogue with all sectors. This does not mean settling for the lowest common denominator. Although there will be trade-offs and at times it will not be possible to find solutions that everyone agrees with, the dialogue needs to take place.
Innovative: Identifying the right solutions will require innovation, demonstrating new approaches, and pilot-testing new ideas.
Evidence-based: Knowing that action for change is more effective when it is grounded on evidence-based facts, our proposals and efforts will have a solid research base.
Long-term: Recognizing that environmental and socio-economic changes can take several years to become visible and materialize, this initiative aims to lay the foundations for a program of work that will go well beyond its initial phase of three years.
Specific and systemic: Reducing the pressure on the marine ecosystem will require working at specific and systemic levels. This initiative will implement specific measures to address key pressures while at the same time promoting broader interventions that address the mega-forces behind those pressures.

In 2017 the pillars of the new foundation will be established. The Marilles Foundation will be launched at the end of the year and projects will be supported from 2018 onwards.

Steps undertaken and to be taken in 2017:

  • Share this vision with multiple actors and stakeholders (Jan - June)
  • Co-develop strategies and action plans for each of the islands (March - June)
  • Secure funding for the initiative (Ongoing)
  • Work on the basic infrastructure: governance, staff, processes, communications (April-September)
  • Co-develop a pipeline of projects (October - December)
  • Launch the Marilles foundation publicly (October - December)

Focus areas

The Marilles Foundation has identified seven strategic objectives to deliver its vision, along with strategic directions describing how it aims to achieve them. The strategic objectives and directions will provide the basis for the development of strategies and action plans for each island and an overall strategy for the Balearics. In the near future, the prioritization of strategic objectives and the final work programs for the different islands will be further developed and finalized.

The Marilles Foundation recognizes that the successful delivery of these objectives requires ensuring that the levels of human pressure are within the islands’ capacity. This is a current debate within the Balearics. Wherever and whenever the Foundation can add value or make a difference it will engage in this debate. Although changing demographics and pressure from tourism are recognized as potential threats for the marine environment, the work of the Foundation will focus on the strategic directions described above.

Strategic objective

A significant share of the Balearic Sea is an MPA.

Strategic directions

  • A significant increase in No Take Zone areas.
  • MPAs are well managed and laws are properly enforced, thanks to an stablished finance mechanism.
  • Proper monitoring and data collection systems are in place.
  • MPAs are a genuine part of the ‘Balearics appeal’.
  • Civil society is engaged in MPA management.

Strategic objective

Impact of professional fishing on marine environment is significantly reduced.

Strategic directions

  • A stable number of fishermen make a decent living (i.e. benefit from sustainable yields and higher returns on their catch).
  • The fishing fleet is committed to action plans for sustainable fisheries management (e.g. through certification schemes, adoption of low-impact gear).
  • Trawlers do not fish in marine vulnerable areas (i.e. continental shelf and in forbidden habitats such as seagrass, coralline beds, maerl etc.) and comply with the law.
  • Artisan fishermen comply with the law (length, time underwater, with no contact with the sea bed).
  • Effective control and enforcement mechanisms have been designed and are well established.
  • Most of the Balearics' fish and seafood products are highly valued and receive recognition due to the islands' commitment to sustainability.

Strategic objective

Impact of recreational fishing on marine environment is significantly reduced.

Strategic directions

  • Recreational fishing continues to be part of the Balearic identity, but it is better regulated and there is more awareness and enforcement.
  • Illegal sales from recreational fisheries to restaurants have ceased.
  • The amount and quality of data and information available has improved.
  • Recreational fishermen are actively engaged in marine conservation (i.e. data collection, fees to support management/enforcement).
  • Poaching is eliminated and considered socially embarrassing in the Balearic Islands. Law-abiding recreational fishermen publicly distance themselves from poachers and those restaurants that trade with them.
  • Effective control and enforcement is in place. Public inspectors intensify their monitoring of both boats and restaurants.

Strategic objective

Impact of boating sector on marine environment is significantly reduced.

Strategic directions

  • Boating continues to be an important economic sector in the Balearics and in the offering to tourists. However, there is a stable number of boats and moorings, including marina seca, in the right places.
  • Skippers and boats sailing in the Balearic Sea are aware of Posidonia (i.e. seagrass) and its vulnerable habitats. Posidonia habitats are charted in official papers and digital marine charts.
  • A good network of ecological mooring and buoys with monitoring, surveillance and control systems are in place.
  • No new ports have been developed and existing ones have not been expanded). Also, levels of coastal urbanization have not increased since 2018.
  • A Coastal Insular Plan provides the framework for good coordination in effective planning and management of the coast by the different administrative bodies involved.
  • Measures are in place to reduce risk of invasive species dissemination by boats.

Strategic objective

Levels of diffuse pollution and plastics on sea and coasts are reduced.

Strategic directions

  • Long-term solutions have been identified and implemented to ensure wastewater treatment capacity is commensurate with human pressure.
  • Plastic presence on the coast and in the sea is reduced.
  • Boat behavior in emptying black-water tanks is improved.
  • The islands are free of plastic bags and single-use plastic bottles.
  • The wastewater treatment infrastructure prevents heavy metals and other industrial substances reaching the sea.
  • Public institutions and key economic sectors follow zero waste principles and best practices.

Strategic objective

Demographic and diffuse pressure on marine and coastal habitats is reduced.

Strategic directions

  • Tourism continues to be the biggest industry, with the largest share of the Balearics economy, the number of visits to the islands stabilizes, and the quality of the tourism experience improves.
  • The tourism industry increases the level and proportion of sustainable service offerings (low-impact accommodation, green transportation, low-impact leisure activities etc.).
  • The tourism sector recognizes the natural environment as critical to the success of the tourism industry and is actively engaged in its protection, re-investing part of its profits in preserving this asset.

Strategic objective

A healthy marine environment is part of the islands identity.

Strategic directions

  • The Balearic regional and local governments and political parties support this vision and incorporate these objectives in their program.
  • A higher number of citizens take part in marine conservation initiatives (i.e. citizens' science, volunteering, beach cleaning, information services etc.).
  • Marine conservation-related activities are covered thoroughly within the Balearic education curriculum.
  • The Balearic society recognizes the role of the marine environment as a key element of its cultural identity, wellbeing, and economic prosperity.

Get involved

As this initiative moves forward we will be updating the web site with more information over the coming months.
If you would like to find out more about this initiative or have any questions please get in touch.

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