Marine protected area increases to 21% with 7 new sites

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Spain has seven new marine areas in the Natura 2000 Network, the largest European network of protected areas in the world. With these additions, the marine protected area rises from 12% to 21%, thus advancing towards the international commitment to reach 30% by 2030.

These additions are the result of the Order approved by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), proposing to the European Commission to include new marine protected areas in the list of Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and to declare Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPA).

The areas proposed as SCIs are the Cañones de Alicante Marine Area, Ibiza Channel, Southwest Canary Islands Seamounts, Northeast Canary Islands Seamounts, Jaizkibel-Capbreton Marine Area and Western Strait, which is also declared a SPA.

The second SPA declared is the “Galician-Western Cantabrian migratory corridor” as a result of the extension and unification of the SPAs located on the Galician and western Cantabrian coasts.


The values protected in these seven new areas are very broad, as they belong to four of the five marine demarcations into which the Spanish coastline is divided and fulfill important functions. For example, the western area of the Strait of Gibraltar is the connection point between the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has a high biological productivity thanks to the current systems and mixing processes that take place in the submarine canyon that runs through it. Almost the entire world population of the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) and the Mediterranean Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) passes through this area.

Many of the most significant values of these areas are related to the breeding, feeding and migration of turtles, cetaceans and birds, as well as the preservation of very sensitive habitats, such as reefs that are home to complex and threatened communities of organisms, such as corals and gorgonians. Also noteworthy is the presence of seamounts, submerged or semi-submerged sea caves, or the so-called pockmark fields, depressions in the terrain in areas of sandy sediment, which may be formed by gas emissions and in their structures can be found communities that can only develop in such places.


The identification of a large number of these sites has been based on the scientific proposal for the adequacy of the Natura 2000 marine network in Spain, developed within the framework of LIFE INTEMARESThe event was attended by 170 renowned experts from 65 organizations in the field of research and the marine environment. subsequent prioritization by MITECOtaking into account ecological and socioeconomic criteria.

The LIFE INTEMARES project is moving towards the objective of achieving effective management of the marine areas of the Natura 2000 Network, with the active participation of the sectors involved and with research as the basic tools.

The Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge coordinates the project. Participating as partners are the Ministry itself, through the General Directorate of Biodiversity, Forests and Desertification and the Subdirectorate for the Protection of the Sea; the Regional Government of Andalusia, through the Department of Sustainability, Environment and Blue Economy, as well as the Environment and Water Agency; the Spanish Institute of Oceanography; AZTI; the University of Alicante; the Polytechnic University of Valencia; the Spanish Fishing Confederation, SEO/BirdLife and WWF Spain. It is supported by the LIFE Program of the European Union.