As a representative of the international section of the Conservatoire du Littoral, what are the main challenges you have identified for the Mediterranean coasts, and particularly for wetlands?
For years the principal discourse focuses on global change and its major impacts on land areas. The various causes are all set at the same level, be it climate change, invasive species and overexploitation. From my perspective, the biggest threat by far in the Mediterranean is habitat destruction by urbanization and infrastructure development. It is this that majorly impacts key coastal areas and even more so wetlands and causes habitat fragmentation. The Conservatoire du Littoral is a useful tool because once you become the owner; the land can’t be built or transferred and therefore is permanently protected. This acquisition is accompanied by a project for which the various actors, be that the manager, the users, the associations, or the local people are involved and kept informed in a transparent manner.
It is this type of transparent functioning which reinforces exchange between different stakeholders, which we seek to promote abroad.
What are the main actions you carry out on wetlands in the Mediterranean?
We work all over the Mediterranean with over twenty countries. However, the main activity of the Conservatory is to buy land in France. International activities are carried out by three people and aim to mobilize the expertise acquired by our rich national experience on completely different sites (wetlands, lakes, woodlands, beach areas ... ), to provide expertise and competences. We have a wide network of experts in France that we mobilize to conduct our international activities.
Historically, concerning wetlands, we have been working on concrete projects in the Mediterranean with the Tour du Valat, including the project MedWetCoast. This project is the result of the merging of two projects, one which concerned coastal issues, carried out by the Conservatoire du Littoral, and MedWet, carried out by the Tour du Valat. Together, we designed this MedWetCoast project funded by the GEF (Global Environment Facility) and FFEM (French Fund for Global Environment), which involved six countries of the Mediterranean, 15 pilot sites and the regional project was carried out in the Tour du Valat by a Lebanese expert. On the basis of $ 104 million, the design was substantial and lasted from 1995 to 1999 and then, the implementation lasted from 1999 to 2006, effectively a seven year project. In most of these countries, this allowed for the classification of certain jurisdictions and the strengthening of some institutions in charge of coastal management and wetlands. In Tunisia this worked best. Through this project, 10% of coastal areas have been preserved; the teams that were trained and that participated in the project development continue to monitor them, under Tunisian funding. Today, they are autonomous.
In which way is the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO) a tool for the Conservatory?
We are users of the relevant and well presented information published by the MWO. We support our policy in France based on these results and this allows us to focus our acquisitions primarily in certain areas and to integrate wetlands as priority areas, in the Mediterranean or elsewhere.
What are your shared activities with the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory?
We are co-actors in some countries, for example, we worked with the MWO in partnership also with the Dutch cooperation in the implementation of a strategy to preserve and enhance wetlands in the Kingdom of Morocco. It particularly recommended the creation of a National Observatory of Wetlands in Morocco, which will be a direct key partner, regognized as a "Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory" facilitating the interaction and the exchange of data with the same indicators as the MWO. We also work with the Tour du Valat and the Mohammed VI Foundation for the development of a local observatory on the Nador lagoon, which is a regional version of the National Observatory of Wetlands in Morocco.
In your opinion what is the outlook?
We work with several partners such as the MedPAN association for marine protection and MedWet, to name a few, and we find that regardless of the conservation theme, the approaches are still the same. Today, in a time of economic and political crisis affecting several Mediterranean countries, it is more essential than ever that we unite towards common action, that we share our approaches and that we communicate them as a coherent whole. Effectively, that we all become actors working together for conservation.
Is not precisely this time of crisis that integration of conservation into the political agendas is unfavorable ?
In the Mediterranean, on average, we realize that the priority is not necessarily the preservation of natural areas and that it is twice as difficult today to get these messages across. Sustainable development is still present in the policy discourse whether it is the fight against global warming or the preservation of the environment- it has become a code word, an international obligation. That is why we must enhance our own discourse using economic and social arguments and this is why the approach of the MWO is favorable, because it addresses decision makers in a language they can understand.