The Sixteenth Meeting of SPA/BD Focal Points, taking place in Malta from 22 to 24 May 2023, is witnessing the active participation of representatives from the Mediterranean countries and relevant regional and international organizations and partners dedicated to preserving marine biodiversity.
This crucial gathering, hosted by the Maltese Government, is focusing on assessing achievements made so far, discussing key draft documents prepared by SPA/RAC for the upcoming MAP Focal Points Meeting and Barcelona Convention COP 23.
The Sixteenth Meeting of SPA/BD Focal Points, convened upon the kind invitation of the Maltese Government, is currently underway in Malta from 22 to 24 May 2023. This three-day gathering has brought together representatives from the majority of the Contracting Parties, including 16 out of the 21 Mediterranean States and the European Union. SPA/RAC partners representing agreements, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs, including ACCOBAMS, IUCN, Pelagos Agreement, MedPAN, TUDAV, WWF North Africa and WWF Mediterranean, have also joined as observers.
The meeting commenced with opening remarks from the host country representatives, UNEP/MAP Coordinating Unit, and SPA/RAC. Mr. Khalil Attia, Director of SPA/RAC, extended a warm welcome to all participants and expressed gratitude to the Maltese authorities for their hospitality. He recalled the biennium's accomplishments, emphasizing the significant progress made towards the implementation of biodiversity and ecosystems core themes within the Barcelona Convention Mid-term Strategy 2022-2027. He also stressed the criticality of collaboration with strategic partner organizations and the establishment of win-win partnerships with relevant stakeholders to effectively address regional goals and targets. He emphasized the need for joint cooperation while avoiding duplicative efforts.
The representative of the Environment & Resources Authority in Malta, Mr. Kevin Mercieca, ERA CEO, acknowledged the strides made in marine biodiversity within the country while underscoring the importance of a regional framework to strengthen national-level initiatives. Recognizing the UNEP/MAP Programme of Work for 2022-2023 as a “driving” force during “challenging times”, the representative expressed optimism in witnessing tangible outcomes on the ground.
Expressing gratitude to Malta for hosting the meeting, Mr. Gabino Gonzalez Deogracia, Deputy Coordinator of UNEP/MAP, highlighted the pivotal role that collaborative measures and decisions taken during the three-day gathering would play in fostering a more sustainable Mediterranean region. He emphasized the Barcelona Convention's resourceful framework, providing a forum for dialogue, joint actions, resource pooling, and synergistic approaches among numerous stakeholders and partners with shared objectives towards a better future.
In her opening speech, Honorable Minister Dr. Miriam Dalli underscored the Mediterranean's marine environment as a precious asset, emphasizing its significance as a source of food, carbon sink, wellbeing booster, economic catalyst, and vital habitat teeming with biodiversity. Stressing the dire consequences that could result from not ensuring the necessary protection for this delicate ecosystem, she emphasized the need to build on the expertise, research data, and guidance from the meeting to preserve the seas for future generations.
The Sixteenth Meeting of SPA/BD Focal Points serves as an opportunity to present the accomplishments and progress made over the past two years since the previous meeting. Additionally, it serves as a platform for discussions and presentations of documents and draft decisions prepared by SPA/RAC, some of which will be submitted to the MAP Focal Points Meeting in Turkey in September and later for adoption by the 23rd Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, to be held in Slovenia in early December 2023.
The documents under consideration include the draft updated Action Plans for the conservation of bird species and for addressing species introductions and invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea. The meeting will also address topics such as the use of phytoplankton and zooplankton as biodiversity indicators for relevant IMAP biodiversity indicators and elaborate the List of Reference of Pelagic Habitat Types in the Mediterranean Sea, the mid-term assessment of the Monk seal conservation strategy, the Regional Action Plans Partner title criteria, the Restoration Programme of Pinna nobilis, the work of the Ad hoc Group of Experts for Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean, the Evaluation and Monitoring Framework for the Post-2020 Regional Strategy for MCPAs and OECMs in the Mediterranean, the analysis of the reports on Specially Protected Areas (SPAs), the Ordinary Periodic Review of the areas included in the SPAMI List, the chapters of the 2023 Mediterranean Quality Status Report related to the Ecological Objectives of biodiversity, the proposed amendments to the annexes II and III of the SPA/BD Protocol of the Barcelona Convention, where several species are proposed to be added to the lists of threatened or endangered species, and the draft Programme of Work of SPA/RAC for the next biennium (2024-2025).
By convening this significant meeting, the participants aim to foster collaboration, review progress, and improve action plans and strategies that will further enhance the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in the Mediterranean region.