In an interview with Ms. Costanza Favilli, Executive Secretary of the Pelagos Agreement on the creation of a marine mammal Sanctuary in the Mediterranean Sea, we speak about the role of the Sanctuary as associated partner of the Plastic Busters MPAs project. The Pelagos Sanctuary is an area of 87,500 sq. km characterized by currents and underwater topography ensuring high biological productivity, favorable to the development of an abundant and diverse wildlife. Ignasi Mateo, SCP/RAC Project Manager, conducted the interview.
What makes the Pelagos Sanctuary unique is the fact that it is the only international SPAMI (Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance) of the Barcelona Convention, managed by three different authorities (Italy, Monaco and France), with the objective of protecting marine mammals and their habitats from all sources of disturbance (pollution, noise, accidental capture and injury, disruption, etc.).
Ignasi: Good morning, Costanza. First of all, thank you for making time for this interview and sharing your experience with us. Is the presence of litter in the marine environment a real problem for the Pelagos Sanctuary?
The main objective of the Pelagos Sanctuary is to protect cetaceans and their habitats. The impact of macro-plastics on cetaceans ranges from entanglement to ingestion and has consequences such as injuries or even death.
The problem of marine litter in the Sanctuary is caused by numerous anthropogenic pressures, such as pollution, fishing, shipping and urbanization, maritime traffic and coastal tourism. In addition, the limited exchange of the Mediterranean Sea waters with those of the oceans increases the amount of marine litter present in the sea, including micro-plastics. Their impact can be also very important and it can lead to toxicological stress for the individuals.
Hence, there is an urgent need to face the marine litter issue and mitigate its impact.
Ignasi: What convinced the authorities of the Pelagos Agreement to join the project and what are your expectations about the PB MPAs project
The reduction of plastic litter and mitigation of its impact have been deemed a priority by the authorities of the Pelagos Agreement for the preservation of its biodiversity.
The project Plastic Busters MPAs will be of major importance to gather knowledge, to evaluate the impacts of plastics on marine mammals and to identify the gyre areas (hot spots) in the Pelagos Sanctuary.
Moreover, the identification of prevention measures is the key to mitigate the land and marine-based sources of marine litter, as well as actions to raise awareness of those communities and citizens living and working around the Sanctuary.
Ignasi: Has the PB MPAs project changed your approach on marine litter challenges?
Through the project Plastic Busters MPAs, we confirmed the importance of the harmonization and standardization of methods for the evaluation of the impacts of plastics on marine mammals in Pelagos Sanctuary.
Ignasi: What would be the most effective manner to share your experience in the project with other MPAs?
The Permanent Secretariat of the Pelagos Agreement could promote and transfer the mitigation measures identified in the framework of the project to its partners, stakeholders and municipalities in the Pelagos Sanctuary area.