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Summary of Site Visits to Some of Italy's Marine Protected Areas: Tavolara - Punta Coda Cavallo

Tavolara—Punta Coda Cavallo

In 1997, when the Ministry of Environment designated Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo, (Tavolara-Horse Tail Point) it became the largest marine protected area (at that time) on the island of Sardinia. It protects nearly 60 square miles. It was an obvious decision, given these coastal waters are just south of Sardinia's and perhaps the Mediterranean' most famous coastline—"Costa Smeralda", the Emerald Coast.

map of Tavolara
Map of Tavolara marine protected area, on east coast of Sardinia./td>

Dr. Augusto Navone
Dr. Augusto Navone, director of Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo marine protected area, at his office on the water.

Villas, including that of Italy's former prime minister, abound along this coast, virtually all low, hidden and woven into the maccia vegetation. MPA managers estimate 5,000 small boats come to Tavolara each year within four months (June - September), for general recreation, boating, fishing, transportation to the island of Tavolara, and transportation around Sardinia. This high number of nautical visitors is both a challenge and an opportunity for outreach about the protected area and how to wise use its resources.

The marine protected area has established a number of mooring buoys in its Zone B, which comprises about 20% of the total area, to support scuba diving activities while also protecting the fragile sea floor from repeated anchor damage. Fishermen born in the local communities responsible for managing Tavolara—Olbia, San Teodoro, and Loiri San Paolo—support the basic design of the protected area and its zones because they are allowed limited but adequate fishing access in Zone Bs. There is still concern from fishermen who reside outside of these communities because they are not allowed to fish in the Zone Bs.


dive boat at Tavolara Island
Dive boat leaving mooring buoy in Zone B, at Tavolara Island.


There are three islands and a long shoreline in the marine protected area. However, the island of Tavolara dominates the vistas and towers, literally, over the area. With sheer rock faces and cloud covered peaks, boating around the island is inspiring and intimidating. Bird rookeries exist on the island, in general a rarity in Italy due to heavy coastal development.

Tavolara Island
The magnificent Tavolara Island, rising out of the emerald waters of Sardinia.

The website for Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo marine protected area is
URL:    Reviewed: November 20, 2017
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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