Save the Med 

The more one navigates around the Mediterranean Sea, the more one realises that it is in danger, as we are exploiting it much more than it can take.

The Mediterranean, 2,500,000 square kilometres, bathes three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa and probably for this reason became the birthplace of Western civilization.

The Med is a closed sea, bordered by 21 countries and joined to the Atlantic ocean only by a narrow strait at Gibralta, only eight miles wide, which provides only a limited capacity of renewal of the waters, which takes around a hundred years.  

Map produced with OceanMap by CIBRA - Uni. of Pavia  -

There are innumerable rivers that empty into the Med, including the Black sea, which is bordered by several other countries and flows into the Med with all its polluted water, through the Bosforus strait at Istanbul. At Istanbul you will always find hundreds of ships at anchor waiting to slip from one sea to the other, giving one an idea of the immense traffic of ships back and forth across the Med, with all the risk of pollution that this implies, with their cargoes of petroleum and many dangerous chemicals and goods. What’s worse is that many of these ships are old and obsolete and pose a serious threat to the already waining health of the Mediterranean sea.  

With these polluted waters continuosly flowing into the Mediterranean, its ecological balance and all its marine life is seriously threatened. Over 100 million people live along its coastlines and in Summer they are joined by another 100 million people, adding to the weight and impact of man that the Med has to bear.

After many years of sailing the Med I have noted that the coastlines are becoming ever more built up, often with ugly buildings without any regard for the natural beauty of the area. The sea itself is being depaupered by technically advanced fishing methods on an industrial scale and all but the deepest parts are literally swept clean by illegal uncontrolled trawlers. I have seen swordfish nets in the middle of the Med, kilometres in length not giving the fish a chance, neither tuna, dolfins, turtles nor whales and the larger fish are becoming ever more rare. We are in fact fishing many varieties into extintion. You can find tinned tuna in every food stall in the world and you can note that the big fish are hardly ever found in the fish markets and most of the fish actually come from fish farms, which are also polluting the sea.

The recent increased popularity of family boating has resulted in many more marinas being built and a flood of impromptu sailors taking to the sea without a proper training in environmental conservation and a consequent pollution of the sea floor.

The global warming that the whole world is facing also has consequences for the Meditarranean. New species of seaweed and tropical fish are making headway and overcoming the local flora and fauna, irreparably transforming the natural habitat of the Mediterranean. A rise in sea level will have unimaginable consequences for the coastline and for the people living there, especially in the low-lying floodplains.

We must all become aware of the risks that our wonderful Mediterranean is running and do our best to overcome them to save the Med.

First of all, consider the decay rate of the following materials, which all too often are recklessly thrown into the sea:

- sigarette filters            12 years

- plastic bags                  20 years

- beer cans                     100 years

- glass bottles                 up to a million years

Suggestions for individuals

All cruising sailors can help by becoming more environmentally aware and taking some simple precautions that will help keep the Med clean and healthy.

·         Install a holding tank to keep the marinas and harbours clean

·         Avoid keeping on board thin plastic plates and cups which eventually are blown overboard and finish on the sea floor

·         Exercise extreme caution in filling outboard fuel tanks

·         Utilise only bio-degradeable soaps and detergents on board

·         Ensure that only organic waste be discarded into the sea and the rest scrupulously deposited in appropriate recepticles ashore

·         Avoid the more devastating types of anti-fouling paints  

·      Install wind generator and/or solar panels to avoid fuel use for charging batteries

·         The power of power boats should be used for transport, not as a means for creating speed for its own sake.

Suggestions for governments

The Mediterranean basin is unique, with its many fascinating countries, cultures, history and natural attractions and could become the playground of the world tourism. National governments and international bodies should do their part and protect the environment and foster the economical potential of tourism.

·          Ban poluting industrial complexes and oil refineries on the coastlines

·          Provide incentives for coastal tourism

·           Reduce bureaucracy for creating marinas

·           Reduce bureaucracy for the international circulation of cruising boats

·            Protect coastlines from undue speculation and concentrate buildings only in restricted areas

·            Create national parks and wildlife sanctuaries along the coastlines

·            Give preference to nuclear power over petroleum

·            Enforce emission restrictions on power boats and speed limits in proximity of the coast

·            Develop archeological sites

·             Educate the masses on environment protection

·             Regularly clean beaches, coastlines and nearby sea beds

·          Control the microbiological quality of bathing waters

·           Ensure efficient sewage treatment plants for coastal cities

·            Provide efficient garbage collection from boats and marinas

·            Enforce fishing restrictions

·            Provide an efficient Search and Rescue Service

·            Keep oil tankers and poisonous cargoes far from the coastlines and tourist   resorts and control for oil spills

·            Control the maintenance state and safety of the national cargoe ships

·            Foster maritime environmental research  

·         Cooperate with other Mediterranean countries through international bodies holding regular meetings and symposiums  

·         Regulate industrial CO2 emission to reduce global warming

Global cooperation by all nations is essential, otherwise the efforts of one well-meaning nation will be thwarted by the negligence of another.

If the underdeveloped African states bordering the Med create a chain of efficient marinas, at most 30 miles apart along their coastlines, then the wealthy northern maritime tourism flows will be tempted to sail south and discover new destinations. This is all the more feasible now with the ever increasing size of the average cruising boat and the new tecnology that makes long distance cruising easier and safer.

This high quality tourism will produce much local economic well-being, with a limited impact on nature and encourage governments to clean up their coastlines and preserve the environment and their natural tourist attractions.

If we increase our awareness and all do our bit in reducing the impact of human activity on nature, we can save the Med and continue enjoying this magnificent cruising playground for many generations to come.

Laurence Camillo


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    The Mediterranean Sea
         Copyright L. Camillo 2008