After more than a decade of research, information gathering and consultations, in April 2021, Montenegro demonstrated its commitment to environmental protection by declaring its first ever marine protected area, the “Platamuni Nature Park” (1,087.3 ha). This was shortly followed by the declaration of its second MPA, the “Katič Nature Park” (2,744.93 ha) in September. Both MPAs were established due to their biological importance and habitat complexity, in particular as a result of their Posidonia oceanica meadows and coralligenous communities, as well as their bays and caves.
The expansion of Montenegro’s protected areas network is particularly important for the process of its accession to the European Union and is a key component of the Government’s ‘Green Agenda’. The declaration of these two new and important MPAs is also a significant step for the conservation of biodiversity in the Mediterranean as MPAs have shown to be an effective tool in the protection of important marine resources, are considered nature-based solutions to climate change, and can provide numerous socio-economic benefits to stakeholders.
Opening the evening’s celebrations, Ms. Ivana Stojanovic from the Ministry of Ecology, Spatial Planning and Urbanism of Montenegro acknowledged that although the declaration of these MPAs is a great achievement, there is still lots of work that needs to be done. She emphasized that the Ministry did not work alone throughout the process and that none of it would have been possible without the support of local fishing communities, NGOs, the citizens of Montenegro, and a number of institutions, such as the Interreg Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community and the GEF UNEP project “Promoting Protected Areas Management through Integrated Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Protection in Coastal Area of Montenegro”. She also stated that Montenegro intends to proclaim its third marine protected area, “Stari Ulcinj” by the end of this year.
Ms. Stojanovic’s opening address was followed by Ms. Batakovic (Montenegro Environmental Protection Agency), Ms. Vukovic (NGO Green home) and Mr. Varda (MedCEM), who all highlighted the importance of stakeholder inclusion and participation in the declaration process. Cooperation and collaboration were essential to meeting proclamation requirements, such as nature protection studies, and to gain support for the MPAs from users and the wider society. Ms. Ivana Frenata, from the Public Enterprise for Coastal Zone Management, stated that although they are the body responsible for the management of these new MPAs, through the management plans that are in the process of development, they are “open to future cooperation for the better management of our MPAs”. Developing management plans, hiring new staff and identifying sustainable financing opportunities for these new MPAs are among the key activities the enterprise is currently engaged in.
Speaking on behalf of the MBPC, Ms. Dania Abdul-Malak (ETC-UMA and MBPC coordinator) shared the many ways that the community has supported Montenegro throughout the declaration process and how they intend to provide continued support for their subsequent MPA network expansion and management. Representing more than 300 institutions working together, the MBPC and their 17 partner projects facilitate the exchange of best practices, tools and knowledge through events and knowledge platforms. In 2017 and 2018, in an effort to support the declaration process, the MBPC and partners, together with Montenegro, organized two knowledge sharing events. These knowledge sharing events promoted exchange among researchers, scientists, policy-makers and marine protected area managers for enhanced ecosystem-based management. They also provided opportunities for EU and non-EU institutions to network and share best practices and experiences towards a more integrated approach to protecting and conservating biodiversity in the region.
Recognizing that supporting national declaration processes and MPA management was in line with the MBPC’s sub-regional territorial targets, in 2019, Ministry of Ecology, Spatial Planning and Urbanism-MESPU (previously Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism) became an official partner with the MBPC in the continuation of PANACeA activities. Considering Montenegro’s needs, capacities and the protection status of their marine environment, the MESPU together with the MBPC agreed on three main topics of interest for Montenegrin institutions: climate change, marine litter and MPA governance.
In 2020 and 2021, the MBPC, led by the ETC-UMA, and together with the MESPU and selected MBPC projects (Amare, MPA Networks, MPA-Adapt/Engage, PlasticBustersMPAs, Act4litter), organized the first two of three capitalization events for Montenegro institutions related to marine environment protection and management. The first capacity building event focused on climate change while the second focused on marine litter. The third event, to be held at the start of 2022, will focus on MPA governance. The overall objectives of these events are to transfer experience and knowledge and to enhance awareness in Montenegrin institutions of the existing tools (such as MedBioLitter database, the Mediterranean Biodiversity Knowledge Platform and the Catalogue of biodiversity protection and management tools) and initiatives in the Mediterranean region and Adriatic Sea that support collaborative and science-based MPA management.
Ms. Abdul-Malak went on to describe other ongoing and planned MBPC initiatives in 2022 to further support Montenegro’s MPAs, such as showcasing their declaration process and new MPAs through storymaps and the online knowledge platform, continuing to help fill knowledge gaps, and sharing transferable experiences to guide the development of strategies and action plans. She pointed out that MBPC activities supporting Montenegro are in line with the Draft Post-2020 MPA RoadMap Strategic Objective 1, Recommendation 1.1: Ensure, in each Mediterranean country, national government commitment in preparing, implementing and updating a national strategy and an operational national action plan in order to achieve international targets related to MPAs.
Ms. Stojanovic closed the session by reminding everyone that “MPAs are everyone’s business” and that the inclusion and participation of key stakeholders is critical for the declaration process and for the subsequent effective management of any MPA. She also expressed a desire and hope that the MBPC project will continue beyond 2022 and with their support to Montenegro in the effective management of their marine protected areas.
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