Governance of High Sea Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas from a Maltese Perspective
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The conservation of marine resources is gaining importance as more research is carried out leading to an increase in public awareness through campaigns and news. One conservation tool that is attracting more attention is commonly referred to as marine protected area (MPA). This tool has been used over many years but its use is increasing. There are various legal instruments that either obligate or encourage the use of MPAs. MPAs can be applied in all areas irrespective of the jurisdiction. However, jurisdiction of the area where a MPA is to be designated, influences the nature of regulations with which the MPA is governed and also the complexity of the process to establish the protected area. The High Seas, in which no State can exercise any form of jurisdiction, is presenting legal and practical challenges in the setting up of MPAs. To date a number of High Seas MPAs (HSMPAs) have been designated in various parts of the globe. In the Mediterranean Sea, only one HSMPA has been set even though a relevant regional legal instrument, in the form of a Protocol, is in place since 1995. This instrument calls for and incorporates an administrative process how HSMPAs can be set. It is evident that after twenty years of the Protocol’s existence and the number of HSMPAs in this regional sea, that some factors may be holding its Parties back. Such factors need to be singled out and analysed. These factors are not just of legal nature but also of political, scientific, social and financial nature, among others. This research endeavoured to analyse the existing situation by an empirical review looking at the nature and need of MPAs and then delving into existing laws that factor MPAs in their provisions. The empirical aspect was considered since law evolves to meet the needs and expectations of humankind, which also include the protection of the environment. There are a multitude of provisions that can allow States to at least seek a way forward to establish HSMPAs but yet progress is limited. So much so that now work is on-going on an agreement under the auspices of the United Nations to possibly facilitate HSMPAs. The status quo of the Mediterranean situation was also sought through questionnaires being sent to Parties of the Protocol, analysis of documents from conferences of the Parties and also by interviews with various academics. It is evident that while HSMPAs in other parts of the globe present various challenges, the situation in the Mediterranean may be even more complex owing to the political situation and the differences in the level of development between various States. The factors that are withholding the States to set HSMPA need to be addressed to ensure the successful implementation of the Protocol’s relevant provisions. Failure to do so might not imply that Mediterranean HSMPAs would not be created but they can simply remain paper MPAs. Such a situation might lead to a discontent in the public attitude toward this tool due to poor tangible results. This research attempts to identify various factors and also puts forward some recommendations for possible way forward.