After a decade-long effort that went into increasing protections in Cabrera National Park, a maritime-terrestrial protected area off the coast of Spain along the Mediterranean Sea, the Spanish Government has announced that an extension will finally be made! Created in 1991, the Spanish marine protected area (MPA) will now cover 90,794 hectares of the Mediterranean Sea, which is nine times the size of the existing area of protection. This makes Cabrera National Park the second-largest MPA in the Mediterranean (the first being Greek National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades at 160,000 hectares).
Marine protected areas have been proven through scientific studies to benefit sea life by providing a haven for the area to rebuild and thrive. Studies have shown that regions with reduced fishing pressure have healthier communities and can end up being home to fish that are significantly larger and more plentiful than areas with no protection. Since 2007, Oceana Europe has been working to expand this national park, where they started with the first of six expeditions aimed at studying the unique area’s deep-sea waters and marine life. The waters of Cabrera National Park are home to commonly known marine mammals such as dolphins and sperm whales as well as many deep-sea corals. Increasing the size of this MPA will give some of the best environmental defenses legally possible to these sensitive and critical species, including the Critically Endangered Balearic shearwater.
Oceana continued their work with Spain as they joined Cabrera’s board of trustees in 2013 and, in 2017, they successfully achieved an ‘unprecedented parliamentary consensus’ with nearly all of Spain’s political parties in support of expanding the park’s protection. Ricardo Aguilar, the Research and Expeditions Director for Oceana Europe, stated, “Cabrera National Park is home to a huge diversity of ecosystems and marine life, and is a perfect example of the underwater natural heritage that we want to keep for generations to come.” MPAs consequently help maintain local fishing practices along with cultures, economies, tourism, and livelihoods which are all components that depend on a healthy marine environment.