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Italy's "Sanctuaries"—called "Marine Protected Areas"

Italy's "Sanctuaries"— called "Marine Protected Areas"

Italy has one of the more developed programs in the Mediterranean to protect special areas of the coast and ocean.  At the same time this was written in 2004, it had 20 currently designated "sanctuaries" (in Italian known formally as "area marina protetta", or "marine protected area"); two areas, called submerged parks, that protect archaeological sites; and one vast, tri-national area to protect cetaceans that has been initially instituted.

map of current italian mpa's

There are approximately 15 sites that have had critical studies and analyses completed, that may soon be designated as marine protected areas.  And, Italy has nearly a dozen sites on a site evaluation list that could move further through the approval process in the coming years.

map of potential italian mpa's

By law, Italy may institute up to 50 marine protected areas throughout its waters (for website for Italian MPAs at Department of Environment).  While small in size compared to national marine sanctuaries in the United States, all of the existing Italian marine protected areas employ strict zoning to designate the core area(s) of the protected area.  This zoning, too, is required by Italian law.

The heart of the protected area is identified as Zone A, the "integral reserve", and it is almost always what Italians term a "no entry, no take" zone, usually prohibiting access except for scientific research and prohibiting all removal or harvest of plants and animals.  Zone B, the "general reserve", surrounds Zone A to provide a buffer to human activities and for the resources within the protected area.  Generally in Zone B, human access is allowed but can be limited by permits for boating and diving, for instance;  fishing is restricted to recreational fishing, or sometimes, permitted for local fishermen only.  Typically, in Zone C, the "partial reserve", access is open to most general navigation, and the fishing activity typically prohibited is for trawl nets and spear fishing.  Restrictions within zones are site specific, and like regulations in national marine sanctuaries, have evolved differently over the past 10-20 years.

italian mpa zoning

Throughout all zones, harmful activities such as seabed disturbance, discharges or disposal, altering the geophysical and hydrological or biological environment, or capturing or removing plants or animals (other than that allowed by fishing), are prohibited.

Italian marine protected areas mirror the national marine sanctuaries in that they use advisory councils made up of 12 local and national experts and interested parties.  Government agencies appoint their representatives, and the federal government in Rome appoints representatives to fill specific seats, such as research/science, environmental organization and business and tourism.  Much like Sanctuary Advisory Councils, the Italian equivalent is an integral partner in managing the site by providing a direct link for local citizens and advice to the marine protected area manager.

Italy is about the size of California, with a slightly longer coast line (it has ocean on three sides) and a population of about 56 million, of which about half live within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the coast.  The total area protected by the 20 marine protected areas is 362 miles of coastline and 708 square miles.  This area represents about the same amount of coastline protected in California by national marine sanctuaries, but offshore California the total area protected by national marine sanctuaries is about 7,700 square miles.