An in-depth analysis of options for Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in Spain was completed in 2008 by the Marine Stewardship Work Group under the auspices of the Xarxa de Custodia del Territori Network. The analysis below describes the concepts and basic characteristics of private marine stewardship in Spain.
According to the European Union, the member states should effectively protect 20% of marine areas along the European coastline. Marine reserves, from a generic point of view (marine protected areas, no-use zones, refuges, sanctuaries, etc.) are the world's best-known marine conservation system, but in Spain they still represent less than 1% of the territory. Even within these protected areas there are many paper parks that have insufficient or inappropriate management. If the European recommendations for marine conservation are to be complied with, the area under conservation needs to increase through the establishment of new marine protected areas and improvement of their management, while carrying out alternative actions towards the effective protection of marine environments.
In view of the lack of marine protection action guidelines from authorities, several entities belonging to the Xarxa de Custodia del Territori (XCT), a terrestrial stewardship network, are working to apply traditional terrestrial stewardship approaches to the marine environment. The differences between marine and terrestrial stewardship requires us to develop more fully the concept of marine stewardship, its instruments, and working methodology, as a first step towards a marine stewardship model for Spain. The XCT network is promoting this new avenue for marine conservation through the Marine Stewardship Work Group.
XCT Marine Stewardship Work Group
The XCT Marine Stewardship Work Group was officially established on June 4, 2007. The work group's main goals are to promote the concept of marine stewardship, encourage networking among the different interested parties and promote a favorable socio-political framework for the development of marine stewardship.
The group is structured in two parts: a core group that meets periodically to determine guidelines and an external group that does not meet, but receives information generated by the core group and participates in discussions. The core group consists of: Nereo, DEPANA, Acciónatura, Consorci EL FAR, Fundación CRAM, Fundación Mar, Litoral Consult and the Department of the Environment and Housing for the Autonomous Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Cataluña). The external group is made up of various experts in marine conservation and other entities, most of them outside the territorial scope of the Strategic Plan for Catalonia.
Marine Stewardship Concepts
Spain does not contemplate private property in the ocean because according to the Spanish Constitution, the ocean is considered public property which belongs to all citizens. Nevertheless, the citizens as “owners” of the ocean cannot participate directly in its management and planning, because that is the exclusive responsibility of the state. The state assigns authority to different administrative entities, but conservation organizations are not represented in this distribution of authority and municipalities have only limited authority.
Marine stewardship is a way for the civil society to participate in the planning and management of the ocean. Marine stewardship, in Spain's case, is defined as a conservation strategy that tries to generate responsibility within the relevant authorities and users of marine environments for the conservation of the natural, cultural and scenic values.
Scope of Marine Stewardship
By definition, the coastline and inlets, the territorial sea and the interior waters, and the natural resources of the economic zone and continental shelf are part of the public marine domain. The coastline is the area between low tide and the maximum wave line for the strongest known storms, the marshes, lagoons, wetlands and all the low-lying areas that are flooded as a consequence of the ebb and flow of the tides, the beaches or areas of deposit of loose materials, sand, pebbles, as well as dunes. The potential scope for marine stewardship includes all areas of the public marine domain.
Marine Stewardship Entities
As in terrestrial stewardship, marine stewardship entities are heterogeneous from the point of view of legal formats, and may be private (i.e., associations and foundations) as well as public entities (i.e., municipalities, municipal consortiums, organizations managing natural areas). Also, in marine stewardship, collective users may act as stewardship entities, as described below. Ultimately, the role of the marine stewardship entities is not much different from terrestrial stewardship entities --to implement conservation projects, provide management advice, contact other agents, form alliances and raise funds.
Marine management authority in Spain is distributed to different jurisdictions and administrators. Generally, the authority over exterior waters belongs to the different state ministries, while the authority over interior waters has been transferred to the autonomous communities. In external waters: the Ministry of the Environment, Rural and Marine Areas has authority over the exploitation of fishing resources and biodiversity conservation; and the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation is responsible for the ports and navigation. In interior waters in Catalonia (for example), authority lies with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Action, Department of the Environment and Housing, and the Department of Territorial Policy and Public Works.The result of the fragmentation in management authority is that in one marine area there can be several entities with overlapping authority, with no unified single representative or negotiator. This scenario greatly complicates the development of marine stewardship projects.
For more information—State Council Report Commission: Report on the authority of the different territorial administration agencies and general state administration agencies regarding the protection of habitats and marine species and the creation and management of marine protected areas. 2006.
Users of the Marine Environment
Because private owners do not exist in the marine environment, different user groups have relevant roles, including industrial fishermen, recreational fishermen, swimmers and recreational boaters. Many users, however, do not have formally structured groups which makes it difficult to identify a valid and representative speaker. Some of the groups are organized into legal groups, such in guilds, professional groups and associations allowing the presence of a speaker endorsed by the users. When users are organized, they can have a double role in marine stewardship: on one hand they can act as stewardship entities and implement marine stewardship projects on their own initiative; and on the other hand they can act as collective users with whom other stewardship entities can establish agreements.
Marine Stewardship Options
The implementation of marine stewardship implies acting within an area declared as public domain, with a clearly defined legal context but one that is also fragmented between several laws implemented by various administrative sectors. In this regard, the XCT Marine Stewardship Work Group has planned a legal analysis of the opportunities offered by the current laws to implement marine stewardship projects and promote legal changes needed to increase the existing options.
There are at least two options identified for marine stewardship in Spain: implementation of marine stewardship areas and implementation of marine stewardship actions. Marine stewardship can be undertaken within well-defined marine areas where custodial, stewardship entities implement management actions. Marine stewardship can also be undertaken through managing and improving various user actions within the marine environment, without custodial, stewardship entities managing defined marine areas.
Marine Stewardship Areas
A marine stewardship area is defined as a marine area that is directly managed by a custodial entity (in-total or in-part) with an administrative agency. This type of management always implies a relationship with the relevant authority, and is based on the existing laws of Spain and the autonomous communities that permit it.
Authority of the Municipal Stewardship Entities
Local, coastal municipal authorities can be stewardship entities when they have appropriate jurisdiction that the state and autonomous administrations have delegated to them so that they can plan the public use of coastal areas. A few of the most relevant are the delineation and management of swimming areas and the management of port structures.
Delineation and Management of Swimming Areas: Swimming areas are a public use management tool under municipal authority through which an exclusive swimming area can be delineated and marked with buoys. Within swimming areas, fishing, navigation and boat anchorage are prohibited by law. Municipalities can use swimming areas as a marine conservation measure to protect the ocean floor, even though they have two limitations: a spatial limitation (the areas can not extend beyond 200 meters from the coastline); and a time limit (they only function during the swimming season which is May-October).
Example: The municipality of Sant Feliu de Guixols (Girona), thanks to the delineation of a swimming area up to the permitted 200 meters, is protecting 10 hectares of rocky bottom and seagrass (Posidonia) along its coastline and is implementing conservation measures such as surveillance and the use of ecological mooring systems for marking buoys.
Temporary Boat Mooring Zones: Maritime installations are works and structures, permanent or temporary, that do not meet the requirements for maritime ports, and occupy public domain areas not included in port service areas. Temporary boat mooring areas are maritime installations that help increase the availability of mooring sites during the summer season (June-September) and that are often placed in natural protected areas and even in areas of interest for the community such as seagrass beds. The placement, management and removal of the temporary mooring systems are the responsibility of the municipalities, but frequently this task is assigned to private contractors through public bidding. Even if, in theory, the public bid specifies that all the structures must be removed by September, in most cases the concrete blocks and the main chain are left at the bottom and the oscillation caused by winter storms damage the marine bed.
Example: The municipality of Begur (Girona) is working to substitute the present mooring systems with ecological systems based on the use of low-impact mooring structures (metal structures over rock, spirals over seagrass) and the use of sub-superficial buoys to keep the chain tense and prevent erosion of the marine bed, among others.
Agreements with the Municipalities
Municipalities have the authority to implement conservation actions but they often lack the technical equipment and knowledge to implement them. Stewardship entities may propose and advise the implementation of marine conservation activities. Herein lies an opportunity for stewardship entities to form MCAs with municipalities to assist them with their conservation efforts.
Example: Foundations Mar provides advice to the municipality of Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Girona) for the installation of low-impact systems for marking buoys in the bathing area at Punta de Garbi a cala del Vigatà.
Concessions to Stewardship Entities
A concession is a temporary authorization granted by a relevant authority to a public or private entity for the occupation of a public domain area. The concession of a marine area authorizes the grantee, as temporary “owner”, to limit the use within his/her perimeter (navigation, fishing, bathing, etc. ). The fee for marine concessions is very high in the case of concessions for productive activities (1 €/m2 per year), but there is a substantial reduction, making it almost symbolic, in the case of conservation concessions. Relevant authorities can grant concessions of public marine domain to stewardship entities for the implementation of conservation and recovery actions.
Example 1—Intertidal Concession Zone: The Naturaleza y Hombre Foundation (Cantabria) obtained a concession from the Ministry of the Environment, through the Demarcation of the Coastline of Cantabria, to occupy 11.7 hectares of the Alday inlet (Santander and Camargo) for the implementation of the Alday Marsh Restoration Project. In this case, the fee was symbolic (149 €/year for the entire area).
Example 2—Marine Concession Zone: Acciónnatura has requested the concession of 70 marine hectares along the coast of Garraf (Barcelona) to install the first artificial reef park sponsored by the civil society (fishing sector, non-profit, and businesses) with the ultimate goal of recovering the marine bed and the fishing resources of the area.
Another possibility for marine stewardship that can be experimented with in the future is an initiative presented by a SCUBA diving center for the concession of a specific diving area in order to protect it from extractive activities and to manage it under sustainable environment criteria. The fee could be derived from the payments made by the divers for each immersion.
Stewardship Agreements with Grantees
Concessionaires or grantees of marine areas, either for resources exploitation (fish culture, bivalve rafts, or shellfish culture) or for the installation of port structures, can be considered temporary owners of an area. Stewardship agreements can be established with these entities as a means to work with them to implement conservation measures within marine areas.
Co-management and Self-management of Fishing Resources
Fish are a public good that should be managed by all the actors affecting the resource, but until now fishermen (professional and especially recreational fishermen) were simply informed of the decisions taken by the corresponding authorities. Nevertheless, in areas where fishing plays a historical as well as a relevant social and economic role, the authorities are increasingly giving more management power to the fishermen, up to the point of reaching full management for the exploitation of a specific fishing resource.
Example 1—Self-management by Professional Fishermen: The Xunta de Galicia Network, after trying unsuccessfully for decades to manage the use of benthic species with high commercial value such as shellfish (barnacles, razor clams, crustaceans), decided that the fishing guilds could organize to internally and locally manage these resources. In order for self-management to work, the Galician fishing administration designed an efficient legal instrument that defines the role of the local agencies and clearly defines the physical area where users can carry out their activities.
Example 2—Self-management by Recreational Fishermen: The Catalonian Association for Responsible Fisheries promoted the creation of the Recreational Fisheries Park in the Ebro River Delta by the Catalonian fishing administration. Within the limits of the park, the recreational fishermen implement responsible fisheries promoting a no-kill fishing practice and increasing the allowed minimum catch size.
When concessions are involved in the above scenarios, Stewardship entities may advise the fishing resource users/managers on responsible harvesting techniques that reduce impacts on non-target species and marine habitats.
Community-based Management of Marine Areas
Community-based management, or co-management, places authority for marine area management into the hands of communities, local agencies, relevant user groups, local authorities and private parties. Stewardship entities can be part of the co-management relationship or it can establish stewardship agreements with the managers/co-managers of the area.
Example: Co-management was established for the Os Miñarzos (Galicia) Marine Fishing Reserve, wherein 50% of the management representatives are from the fishing sector and the other half of the representatives are from the autonomous fishing authority and the environmental autonomous authority.
Collaborative Management of Marine Protected Areas
Many Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) currently do not have the economic and human resources needed for effective management in order to reach the goals that justified their creation. Surveillance, infrastructure maintenance, biological monitoring, and visitor information are characteristic MPA management actions that authorities can implement with the collaboration of stewardship entities.
Collaboration agreements are documents describing the compromises reached by the stewardship entity and the relevant authority in regards to the activities that each party will implement for the management of an MPA.
Example: The Nereo association and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Action signed an agreement for shared management of the no-fishing area of Ses Negres (Girona). Nereo has carried out surveillance, marking, information, and biological monitoring in the reserve since its creation in 1993 up to 2006.
There are several administrative procedures, such as service contracts, through which stewardship entities can collaborate in the management of a marine protected area. Under the terms of a contract, stewardship entities must fulfill all identified tasks.
Example: Associació Ecologista Escurçó carries out surveillance for the Masia Blanca (Tarragonal) marine reserve and Fundació CRAM is in charge of surveillance for the no-fishing area of Ser Negres (Girona) since 2006.
Partnerships that Inspire Action by Relevant Authorities
In order to inspire relevant authorities to protect marine habitat, stewardship entities can partner with local user groups so the user groups encourage authorities to undertake marine conservation actions. The spatial definition of potential marine protected areas will determine if user groups need to request protection decrees from the central authorities (exterior waters) or from autonomous authorities (interior waters). Also, depending on the goals proposed for the reserves, the decrees will be established in either environmental (marine protected areas) or fishing (marine fishing reserves) legislation. It is likely that the proposed establishment of reserves will be more successful if undertaken directly by the fishing sector as opposed to NGOs.
Example 1: The Lira fishermen guild (Galicia) was able to get the Galician fishing authority to create the marine fishing reserve Os Miñarzos. Along the same line, the Fundación Promediterrània provided technical support to the fishermen guild in Palamós (Girona) for the creation of a marine fishing reserve around the Hormigas Islands to promote and recover artisanal fisheries.
Example 2: Nereo was able to obtain the creation of a No-Fishing Zone in Ses Negres (Girona) and the GOB Menorca was able to obtain the North Menorca Marine Reserve (Baleares Islands). Acciónatura is promoting the creation of a MPA in Garraf (Barcelona) and DEPANA is promoting one in the Punta de la Mora (Tarragona).
Authorization of Actions within the Marine Public Domain
Authorities can also delegate specific conservation activities to stewardship entities in the public marine domain. Under this scenario, stewardship entities may perform any activities that are under the jurisdiction of the relevant authority. This option is appropriate along the coastline and may open the doors to the integrated management of coastal areas if it is complemented with terrestrial stewardship activities on private farms adjacent to the coast.
Marine Stewardship Actions
The concept of marine stewardship actions is more diffuse and its scope may be wider and more difficult to determine than for marine stewardship areas. Marine stewardship actions do not imply direct management of a specific marine area by a stewardship entity; instead it is based on creating responsible management by users or relevant authorities.
When responsibility is generated within the users, marine stewardship actions are based on agreements with specific groups of users with the goal of changing the characteristic habits of their activity for the benefit of the conservation of the natural, cultural, and scenic marine resources. Within this type of marine stewardship actions there are a large number of initiatives that would need to comply with the following basic characteristics:
- Contribute tangibly to the conservation of the marine habitats and/or species, since the goal of marine stewardship is the long-term conservation of the natural, cultural, and scenic values of a specific area.
- There must be a real change in the activity of the users with whom the agreement was reached.
- The initiative must be promoted by a stewardship entity or must originate from the group of users.
- The agreement must be voluntary, because simple compliance with the law is not considered a marine stewardship action.
Example 1: Changes in fishing gear to decrease mammal, turtle and bird by-catch. ALNITAK in Gibraltar and SEO/Birdlife throughout Spain, work to implement systems to avoid marine turtle and bird by-catch through agreements with longline fishermen.
Example 2: Increase in the minimum catch size for recreational fishing implemented by the Catalonian Association for Responsible Fishing in different parts of Catalonia.
Example 3: Modification in the mooring systems at diving sites to avoid erosion of the marine bed caused by mooring boats. The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association in the Egyptian Red Sea has installed the world largest system of ecological mooring buoys.
Example 4: Agreements have been used with users to zone areas in the Parc Natural de Serra Gelada (Benidorm). This is a park with no special regulations for fishing. The park managing agency has reached an agreement with the professional fishermen and divers so that fishermen do not fish in the diving areas and the divers limit their activity to the designated areas.