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Summary of Site Visits to Some of Italy's Marine Protected Areas: Isole Egadi

map of Egadi
Map of Egadi Islands marine protected area, west of Sicily Italy.

Isole Egadi

Many have observed that the shape of the country of Italy reflects a boot kicking a soccer ball, (and thus, why some claim it foretells why Italy is so good at men's soccer). With that imagery, the Egadi Islands are tufts of turf in front of the advancing soccer ball. The Egadi Islands marine protected area is comprised of a five-island archipelago west of Sicily. It is the largest of the Italian marine protected areas, largest in all Europe in fact, protecting 208 square miles and 46 miles of coastline (the tri-national "sanctuary" to protect marine mammals in the Ligurian sea, significantly larger than the Egadi Islands, is not technically considered a marine protected area because it only focuses on marine mammals and not whole ecosystems.)

azure seas of Marettimo
Glorious azure seas of Marettimo Island, part of Egadi Islands marine protected area.

Like all other Italian marine protected areas, the Egadi Islands are totally zoned, including two large Zone As and the only "Zone D" within Italian marine protected areas. The largest Zone A, on the west side of Marettimo, the western most island in the archipelago, is about 3 square miles and the other around Maraone is about 1 square mile. The Zone As and Zone Bs in the Egadi Islands offer special access for island residents who are providing tours or guiding activities allowed by the regulations.

There have been a number of outreach programs instituted at the Egadi Islands marine protected area. However the different socioeconomic bases on the different islands and the varying expectations from each islands' residents about the marine protected area create challenges for effective management. Outreach programs to educate the residents and the public that visit the islands reflect those challenges.

grotto in Marettimo
Approx. 20 foot tour boat is dwarfed by brilliance and immensity of grotto on Marettimo Island.

Marettimo has a remarkable lineage and linkage to Monterey. There are thousands of Monterey residents, mostly from fishing families, who were born on or whose matriarchs and patriarchs were born on Marettimo. The main square in Marettimo, just above the harbor, is named "Piazzetta Monterey"—Little Square of Monterey. There are residents of Marettimo who own homes on the island and on the Monterey Peninsula. The town's museum includes news articles from the Monterey Herald. And, virtually everyone on Marettimo today tells the story of when then Monterey Mayor, Dan Albert, visited the island in 2000. They all Dan Albert as, "il mio amico", my friend, which is also a common thread between Marettimo and Monterey.

Marettimo in particular has dozens of remarkable caves that small tour boats (30 ft.) can enter. Touring these "grottoes" is an ever-growing eco-tourism opportunity for fishermen who no longer have fisheries to sustain a year-round living catching fish. The stunningly clear, blue and emerald waters around Marettimo and the other islands make them popular summer tourism destinations. Increasing challenges are faced by the marine protected area and the citizens on Marettimo who lack a written plan about how much growth and what kind of growth, if any, should be allowed to support the increasing number of tourists. Basic infrastructure is lacking on Marettimo, such as roads and water, and housing is at a remarkable premium. Nearly all of Marettimo is undeveloped; it has beautiful forests covering the 5,000 ft. tall mountain peaks and is a critical migratory bird pathway between Europe and Africa.

migrating hawks
Hawks migrating from central Europe to Africa seek thermals above Marettimo Island.

Opportunities remain to resolve, including how to incorporate an old lighthouse on one side of the island and an 800 year old castle on the other side—of the many ideas shared, several include making one or both visitor centers for the marine protected area or using one or both as part of a research institution to study the marine biology or archaeology of the marine protected area. Some residents have advocated for a dialogue with Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to help with the future planning, given the close relationship Marettimo and Monterey hold to each other, and given that both Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctaury and Egadi Islands marine protected area are their countries' largest often faced with similar problems of resource protection and resource use.

For more information on Egadi Islands marine protected area, go to:

URL:    Reviewed: November 20, 2017
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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