International Conventions

Due to the migratory nature of sea turtles- implementation of conservation efforts need to be orchestrated and undertaken at National level with international collaboration for regional management. It is no use protecting sea turtles in one area of the Mediterranean Sea while they are still killed elsewhere in the region.

Since the 1970’s there have been considerable efforts to protect sea turtles and critical nesting habitat in the Mediterranean.

Local and National conservation activities were enhanced in the 1980s and 1990s through the support of international organizations and initiatives including: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), Convention for Migratory Species (CMS), World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Council of Europe and the European Union.

However, regionally inclusive cooperation between countries for sea turtle conservation is still lacking.
XIII Conference of the Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols. Source:

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Agenda 21)

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992.
The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. It was agreed that a five year review of Earth Summit progress would be made in 1997 by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in special session.
The full implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Commitments to the Rio principles, were strongly reaffirmed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Unregulated trade in wildlife has become a major factor in the decline of many species of animals and plants. In 1975 an international convention was established to prevent international trade from threatening species with extinction. This treaty is known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Each member country controls the import and export of an agreed list of species that are endangered, or at risk of becoming endangered, due to inadequate controls over trade in them or their products. Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention) was adopted in Bern, Switzerland in 1979, and came into force in 1982. The principal aims of the Convention are to ensure conservation and protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats (listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention), to increase cooperation between contracting parties, and to regulate the exploitation of those species (including migratory species) listed in Appendix 3. To this end the Convention imposes legal obligations on contracting parties, protecting over 500 wild plant species and more than 1000 wild animal species.
To implement the Bern Convention in Europe, the European Community adopted Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the Conservation of Wild Birds (the EC Birds Directive) in 1979, and Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (the EC Habitats Directive) in 1992. Among other things the Directives provide for the establishment of a European network of protected areas (Natura 2000), to tackle the continuing losses of European biodiversity on land, at the coast and in the sea to human activities.


The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention)

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or Bonn Convention) aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. It is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale. Since the Convention's entry into force, its membership has grown steadily to include 104 (as of 1January 2008) Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

The objective of the Bonn Convention is the conservation of migratory species worldwide. Wild animals require special attention because of their importance from the environmental, ecological, genetic, scientific, recreational, cultural, educational, social and economic points of view.

CMS acts as a framework Convention. The Agreements may range from legally binding treaties (called Agreements) to less formal instruments, such as Memoranda of Understanding, and can be adapted to the requirements of particular regions. The development of models tailored according to the conservation needs throughout the migratory range is a unique capacity to CMS.

The African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

The objectives are to encourage individual and joint action for the conservation, utilization and development of soil, water, flora and fauna for the present and future welfare of mankind, from an economic, nutritional, scientific, educational, cultural and aesthetic point of view.


The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention)

Adopted on 16 February 1976, in force 12 February 1978; revised in Barcelona, Spain, 9-10 June 1995 as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (not yet in force)

The Contracting Parties,
Conscious of the economic, social, health and cultural value of the marine environment of the Mediterranean Sea Area,
Fully aware of their responsibility to preserve and sustainably develop this common heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations,
Recognizing the threat posed by pollution to the marine environment, its ecological equilibrium, resources and legitimate uses,
Mindful of the special hydrographic and ecological characteristics of the Mediterranean Sea Area and its particular vulnerability to pollution,
Noting that existing international conventions on the subject do not cover, in spite of the progress achieved, all aspects and sources of marine pollution and do not entirely meet the special requirements of the Mediterranean Sea Area,
Realizing fully the need for close cooperation among the States and international organizations concerned in a coordinated and comprehensive regional approach for the protection and enhancement of the marine environment in the Mediterranean Sea Area,
Fully aware that the Mediterranean Action Plan, since its adoption in 1975 and through its evolution, has contributed to the process of sustainable development in the Mediterranean region and has represented a substantive and dynamic tool for the implementation of the activities related to the Convention and its Protocols by the Contracting Parties,
Taking into account the results of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro from 4 to 14 June 1992,
Also taking into account the Declaration of Genoa of 1985, the Charter of Nicosia of 1990, the Declaration of Cairo of 1992 on Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation on the Environment within the Mediterranean Basin, the recommendations of the Conference of Casablanca of 1993, and the Declaration of Tunis of 1994 on the Sustainable Development of the Mediterranean,
Bearing in mind the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, done at Montego Bay on 10 December 1982 and signed by many Contracting Parties


The Protocol Concerning Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas (SPA Protocol)

Adopted in Geneva Switzerland, on 2 April 1982, in force 1986, revised in Barcelona, Spain on 9-10 June 1995 as the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA and Biodiversity Protocol)

The Contracting Parties to the present Protocol,

Being Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution, adopted at Barcelona on 16 February 1976,

Conscious of the profound impact of human activities on the state of the marine environment and the littoral and more generally on the ecosystems of areas having prevailing Mediterranean features,

Stressing the importance of protecting and, as appropriate, improving the state of the Mediterranean natural and cultural heritage, in particular through the establishment of specially protected areas and also by the protection and conservation of threatened species,

Considering the instruments adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992),

Conscious that when there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be invoked as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat,

Considering that all the Contracting Parties should cooperate to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of ecosystems and that they have, in this respect, common but differentiated responsibilities,


Action Plan for the Conservation of
Mediterranean Marine Turtles

Populations of marine turtles in the Mediterranean have been decreasing steadily through the last decades. Incidental catches by fishing gears, Sea pollution and the use of the nesting beaches are the main causes of marine turtles decline.
The Mediterranean countries within the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan, adopted in 1989 the Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtle. The Parties to the Barcelona Convention included among their priority targets for the period 1985-1995 the protection of Mediterranean marine turtles (Genoa Declaration, September 1985).
To this purpose and as a response to growing international concern about the status of marine turtles in the Mediterranean, which encounter various threats, including mortality in fishing gear and loss of vital habitats on land (nesting beaches), they adopted in 1989 the Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtles.
In 1996, the Parties confirmed their commitment to the conservation of marine turtles by including the 5 species of marine turtle recorded for the Mediterranean in the List of Endangered and Threatened Species annexed to the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (Barcelona, 1995).
The Protocol calls on the Parties to continue to cooperate in implementing those action plans already adopted. The Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Turtles was revised in 1998-1999 and therevised Action Plan was adopted at the 11th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in Malta in October 1999.
Following the request of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (Portoroz, 2005), RAC/SPA is preparing an update of the Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean to be submitted to the 8th Meeting of RAC/SPA National Focal Points.
With the aim of updating the Action Plan the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas RAC/SPA (UNEP/MAP) in collaboration and with the support of the Libyan Environmental General Authority (EGA), convened an ad hoc meeting of independent experts at Misuratah, Libya, 15-16 November 2006.
The experts reviewed the old Action Plan in view of the experience and information gained since it was first implemented in 1999.
Source and Action Plan available here: (

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International Conservation Treaties, D. Hykle:

European Union Habitats Directive

The Habitats Directive (together with the Birds Directive) forms the cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy. It is built around two pillars: the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection. All in all the directive protects over 1.000 animals and plant species and over 200 so called "habitat types" (e.g. special types of forests, meadows, wetlands, etc.), which are of European importance.

Natura 2000 network

Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy. It is an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. The aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which they designate under the 1979 Birds Directive. Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Whereas the network will certainly include nature reserves most of the land is likely to continue to be privately owned and the emphasis will be on ensuring that future management is sustainable, both ecologically and economically. The establishment of this network of protected areas also fulfils a Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
Natura 2000 applies to Birds Sites and to Habitats Sites, which are divided into biogeographical regions. It also applies to the marine environment.

Convention For The Protection Of The Marine Environment Of The North-East Atlantic (OSPAR)

The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic was opened for signature at the Ministerial Meeting of the Oslo and Paris Commissions, Paris, 21-22 September 1992.
The Convention has been signed by all Contracting Parties to the Oslo Convention and to the Paris Convention (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Commission of the European Communities.

Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (HELCOM)

The Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation between Denmark, Estonia, the European Community, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.
HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area" - more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.
HELCOM’s vision for the future is a healthy Baltic Sea environment with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in a good ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable economic and social activities.
In pursuing this objective and vision the riparian countries have jointly pooled their efforts in HELCOM, which is works as:
• an environmental policy maker for the Baltic Sea area by developing common environmental objectives and actions;
• an environmental focal point providing information about (i) the state of/trends in the marine environment; (ii) the efficiency of measures to protect it and (iii) common initiatives and positions which can form the basis for decision-making in other international fora;
• a body for developing, according to the specific needs of the Baltic Sea, Recommendations of its own and Recommendations supplementary to measures imposed by other international organisations;
• a supervisory body dedicated to ensuring that HELCOM environmental standards are fully implemented by all parties throughout the Baltic Sea and its catchment area; and
• a co-coordinating body, ascertaining multilateral response in case of major maritime incidents.
For three decades HELCOM has been working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea. This work has been driven by the specific environmental, economic and social situation in the Baltic region and the specific sensitivity of the Baltic Sea. The work of HELCOM has led to improvements in various fields, but further work is still needed.