Dr. Sylvia Earle, the marine biologist and conservation legend known as “Her Deepness,” recently undertook an expedition to the Mediterranean as part of her Mission Blue initiative. During this expedition, she announced that the first Hope Spot in the Mediterranean would be in the Balearic Islands. This small island group off of the east coast of Spain includes the islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. It is an autonomous region under Spain.
What is a Hope Spot?
Hope Spots are places in the world’s oceans that, for various reasons, are critical to the overall ecological balance of the sea. This significance, along with the general environmental state of the spots, make them highly preservation worthy. Whereas roughly 12 percent of the world’s landmass is now somewhat protected from exploitation, this only goes for 4 percent of the world’s oceans.
Hope Spots bring the local government’s attention to places that are particularly worthy of protection. Status as a Hope Spot, combined with the data collected by Mission Blue and other organizations, can help local conservation groups raise awareness and support, as well as put pressure on officials.
A New Hope Spot
The Balearic Islands have been major tourist hotspots, in particular in Majorca and Ibiza, since the 1960s. Despite development, they still boast impressive natural diversity. With seven marine reserves among the four islands, they can claim the most protected aquatic regions in Spain. Local currents and water conditions, including depths of more than 6,000 feet, make this area is an excellent representation of Mediterranean habitats.
According to Brad Robertson, President of Asociación Ondine, which works to protect the Balearic Sea, international marine environmental groups have largely overlooked the Mediterranean. They have focused their attention particularly on the tropical coral seas. And while these definitely need and merit our protection, the Mediterranean also needs attention.
“The Balearic Archipelago is a beacon of hope the Mediterranean,” says Robertson.
“The Mediterranean is a historical sea that has been, unfortunately, largely overlooked by marine conservation groups over the years,” he says. “Now is the time to acknowledge that this extremely important body of water must be celebrated, appreciated and loved. We are extremely proud of what our local and mainland governments have been protecting over the past years here in the Balearics and super excited that Dr. Sylvia Earle and her Mission Blue team have declared our little patch of Mediterranean paradise a Hope Spot.”
The new Mediterranean Hope Spot is the first in that body of water and only the third in Europe. The first two are in Norway. One is in Kosterfjorden in the far northern part of the country. The other is in Spitsbergen, on the main island of the Arctic archipelago, Svalbard.