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"Egadi Islands" Marine Protected Area (Sicily, Italy)

The Italian Ministry of the Environment established Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area on December 27, 1991, and the area includes the islands of Favigana, Levanzo and Marettimo as well as the islets of Maraone and Formica. In 2010, the MPA regulations were officially approved by the Minister of the Environment. Egadi is the largest marine reserve in Europe, encompassing about 54,000 hectares or 208.5 square miles.

map of Egadi Islands MPA


The Marine Protected Area is divided into 4 zones with different types of protection:
  • Zone A, Full Protection (no take fishing zones, yet swimming and guided dive tours permitted)
  • Zone B, General Protection (fishing, sailing, bathing and guided dive tours permitted)
  • Zone C, Partial Protection (with prior authorization, permits anchorage, bathing, diving, sport and small commercial fishing)
  • Zone D, Partial Protection (with prior authorization, also permits trawl and seine fishing)
The mission of Egadi Islands MPA is to protect and enhance natural habitats and marine resources, and promote scientific research, environmental education and sustainable development. During the summer, approximately 35 seasonal staff work at the MPA, which are comprised mostly of undergraduate level students from the nearby region.

Egadi Island MPA staff at Beach at Favignana Island
MPA staff at work during the summer season Beach at Favignana Island

Marine Environment

Egadi Islands MPA is located off the north-western coast of Sicily, surrounding the archipelago, which includes the islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and the islets of Formica and Maraone.

The rocky substrate supports large areas of submerged plants, as does the hydrodynamics of the intense light. In the depths of the archipelago, the upper infralittoral is characterized by biotic photophilic, with a wide belt with Cystoseira species, a common brown algae.

Within the MPA are important habitats such as the reef-building gastropod Dendropoma petraeum, many submerged caves, and sciaphilic populations and prairies of Posidonia oceanica, which is commonly known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean tapeweed.

The coasts of the islands are home to delicate environments created from the shells of Dendropoma petraeum, a species of sea snail, in association with calcareous algae, which is essential for the protection of the coastline from erosion.

The coastal areas and the sea floor of the Egadi islands hosts hundreds of superficial and submerged caves, due to the calcareous nature of the substrates. The low brightness of the overhanging seabed in many cases favors the development of corals. The roughness of the limestone also increases the settlement of larvae and the formation of shelters occupied by a rich cryptic fauna.

Caves at Marettimo Island Astoriodes calycularis
Caves at Marettimo Island Astoriodes calycularis

The MPA hosts a habitat containing Posidonia oceanica, a seagrass species that is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and most extensive and best preserved in the Mediterranean. Posidonia is a protected habitat, and is called the "lung" of the Mediterranean. This plant produces oxygen and absorbs CO2, mitigates coastal erosion, is home and nursery to the youth of hundreds of species of organisms, including the famous and rare Pinna nobilis, a marine mollusc that can reach up to 120 cm in length. Several rocky shoals provide very important habiatat for animal invertebrates, dominated by gorgonians and sponges.

The Egadi Islands are an area of high biodiversity, hosting many protected species such as: the rare monk seal (Monachus monachus), which was presumed extinct in Italy; the sea turtle Caretta caretta; cetaceans, such as bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales and dolphins; some species of sharks; hundreds of species of fish; and an important colony of the storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), a rare seabird endemic to the Mediterranean. Astroides calycularis, a colonial scleractinian coral characterized by the bright orange color of its coenosarc and polyps, inhabits extensive colonies found mainly along the cliffs.

Lophus fish Monk seal at Egadi Islands
Lophus spp Monk seal at Egadi Islands

MPA Activities and Projects

  • Monitoring projects such as "Guardians of the Sea", which assesses the number of protected species through involvement with local fishermen;
  • Research projects focused on the coasts and coves with ISPRA (Italian Institute for Natural Protection and Research), to determine the presence of the monk seal;
  • Environmental certification of tourist services (includes accommodations, catering, rental of boats car and bikes, sightseeing tours, passenger transport at sea, fishing tourism, diving);
  • Establishment of 9 mooring camps in the 3 islands, to prevent seabed damage caused by free anchoring, and also as a service for recreational boating;
  • Identification and classification of 71 dive sites;
  • Creation of an Observatory for the study of the monk seal at the Castle of Punta Troia in Marettimo, and is also used as a visitor center;
  • Prevention and control at sea, with 5 ships operating every day, involving local youth cooperatives;
  • Guide service on transport passengers boats;
  • Research and students staged in collaboration with the University of Palermo;
  • Environmental education projects with local schools;
  • Field work and conservation projects with environmental associations.


  • Sea Turtle Release Egadi MPA Staff at IMPAC3 Conference
    Sea Turtle Release (Credit: C. Giordano) Egadi MPA Staff at IMPAC3 Conference

  • MPA Projects in Progress:
  • Developing a Rescue Center for marine turtles in Favignana;
  • Promoting "Mark of the catch" tagging program

2013 Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area Awards:

  • First place in the assessment of management made by the Ministry of Environment for the allocation of funds among all Italian 27 MPAS;
  • "Green Coast Award 2013" for a project focus on sustainable management of beached Posidonia, made with ENEA;
  • Participation in the World Congress of MPAs, in Marseille, to illustrate the project "Guardians of the Sea";
  • 1st award of the multivision "Colapesce" at the international festival of Hajange (France);
  • Participation in the National Conference on Biodiversity and the Green Economy in Rome, to illustrate the return of the monk seal.

Tourist Opportunities:

In 2013, the "Egadi Islands" Marine Protected Area, in collaboration with ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) promoted the environmental certification of tourist services (accommodation, restaurants and catering, rental of cars, boats and bikes, sightseeing tours by boat, passenger transport at sea, fishing tourism, diving, mooring services). Below are the accommodations and restaurants that have been awarded the environmental certification:

Paramuricea clavata
Paramuricea clavata (Credit: A. Bellucci)

Accommodation:

Favignana Island
"Al Gattopardo" algattopardo@hotmail.it; +39 0923-921394
"Bouganville" info@albergobouganville.it; +39 0923-22908
"Casa dell'Arancio" info@lacasadellarancio.it
"Cave bianche hotel" info@cavebianchehotel.it; +39 0923-925451
"Favignana Hotel" info@favignanahotel.com; +39 0923-925449
"Geco Resort" info@gecoresort.it; +39 0923-921884
"Hotel delle cave" info@hoteldellecave.it; +39 0923-925423
"Il Portico" info@hotelilportico.it; +39 0923-921701
"I pretti" info@iprettiresort.it; +39 0923-921576
"Nido del Pellegrino" info@nidodelpellegrino.com
"Scirocco e Tramontana" booking@sciroccoetramontana.com
"Tempo di Mare" info@hoteltempodimare.it; +39 0923-922474

Marettimo Island
"La terrazza Marettimo" laterrazzamarettimo@libero.it; +39 0923-923252
"Marettimo Residence" info@marettimoresidence.it; +39 0923-923202
"Rosa dei Venti" rosadeiventiegadi@libero.it; +39 0923-923252

Restaurants:

Favignana Island
"A' Cialoma" info@acialoma.it
"Cave bianche hotel" info@cavebianchehotel.it; +39 0923-925451
"Colpa del mare" info@hoteltempodimare.it; +39 0923-922474
"Hotel delle cave" info@hoteldellecave.it; +39 0923-925423
"La bettola" ciuffino.m@hotmail.it
"La Pinnata" ignaziotruglio@gmail.com
"Rais" rais95@yahoo.it
"Sapori di Mare" lantino@libero.it

Marettimo Island
"Al carrubo" nadiaaliotti@libero.it
"La scaletta" postmaster@ristorantelascaletta.it
"Onda Blu" +39 0923-923102
"Bar Baia del sole" +39 0923-923134

For more information:

URL: http://montereybay.noaa.gov/international/italia/egadimpa.html    Reviewed: April 22, 2014
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