Webinar: Tourism Strategies in Marine Protected Areas


In this EUROPARC webinar, we learned how the Andalusian Regional Government (Spain) is monitors and regulates tourism activities within the Strait of Gibraltar; and discovered the efforts that Cinque Terre National Park MPA (Italy) are taking to have a more inclusive and accessible underwater tourism.

The webinar was be presented by Teresa Pastor, who provided us an overview of the impact of human activity on fragile marine ecosystems and introduce the importance of developing sustainable tourism strategies in Marine Protected Areas. Following this overview, Claudio Valerani, from Cinque Terre National Park (Italy), presented a practical example of an initiative being implemented in this MPA to promote the sustainable use of the reserve by handicapped divers. To end with, Soledad Vivas, from the Agency of environment and water (Regional Government of Andalusia) explained the mechanisms they are using to monitor, plan and regulate tourism activities in the MPAs Estrecho Nature Park and La Breña y Marismas del Barbate Nature Park.

This webinar, together with two previous webinars, was part of a series organized by EUROPARC to celebrate the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, declared by the United Nations for 2017, focused on the topic of Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas.


Introduction: Impact of human activity on fragile marine ecosystems; an overviewby Teresa Pastor, Project and Policy Development Manager at the EUROPARC Federation, Spain.

Case Study 1: The underwater trail for disabled scuba divers by Claudio Valerani, Cinque Terre National Park, Riomaggiore Province of La Spezia, Italy.

Case Study 2: Management and promotion of sustainable tourism activities in the MPAs around the Strait of Gibraltar – by Soledad Vivas, Agency of Environment and Water, Regional Government of Andalucía, Spain.

Watch the full webinar below and read the article

Questions and Answers unsolved during the webinar

Due to connection problems, some of the questions addressed to Soledad Vivas, presenter of the case study Management and promotion of sustainable tourism activities in the MPAs around the Strait of Gibraltar, could not be answered live during the webinar. Below, you can find the Questions (Q) and Answers (A) that the presenter provided to us after the webinar in written form.

Q: How do you manage illegal parking?
A: It’s a short question for a very big problem. Our park is young, it was established in 2003 and there is a lot of casuistry. In fact one of the main issues is that in many cases we do not know the legal situation because some cases refer to a time before the existence of the Park. At the moment we are denouncing those parking lots that are appearing in order to prevent their expansion.
Furthermore, we are completing an inventory of parking lots inside the space (more than 150,000 square meters, in a natural park whose land area is 10,000 Ha) as well as tracking possible land outside the park suitable for this use. However, a meeting with businessmen (hotels and restaurants) is planned to propose a change of model based on parking areas outside the park and a transfer system with shuttles. This can be viable because there is public lot and some parcel owned by the city council, as well as the will of the entrepreneurs to carry out the initiative.
Our regulations indicate that the new car parks will be proportional to the capacity of the facility to which they are associated.

Q: How important is the protection of the earth that surrounds the marine area?
A: Protecting the land environment adjacent to the marine protected areas is vital to ensure the maintenance of ecosystem services. Some essential lines of work are related to prevention and environmental quality (landfills, waste, dredging, etc.), urban planning (landfills, ports, etc.) and communication/ awareness (local population, marinas, fishermen, etc.)

Q: Would you provide safety if there is too much current?
A: The web page, through an algorithm that predicts the weather conditions, determines the streams according to their location and time of occurrence. This way, immersions can be either programmed in geographic points and / or time zones where the current intensity is lower or delay or alter them.

Q: Is the web now available? Do you have any user’s feedback?
A: The web is not available yet but it is scheduled to be executed. In the future it will have a very strong participatory component, both in relation to the natural environment (observations of singular species, photography, etc.), impacts (detection of illegal gear, warnings of intensive diving impacts, exotic species, etc.) and operation of the website itself (reliability of forecasts, proposals for new content, etc.)

Q: Have you analysed the carrying capacity for divers in the Estrecho Natural Park?
A: No, we do not have performed any carrying capacity study.

Q: How do you ensure low impact from visitors?
A: In La Breña project, we already count with existing environmental information of the marine area (biodiversity index, quality of seabed, water quality). Based on this information, the activities carried out in the MPA will require prior authorisation in order to maintain these environmental values at optimum levels. During the operation of the project, we will carry out environmental monitoring of the different diving areas (prairies, caves, rocks, etc.) to indicate if the usage of the sites is acceptable or should be reduced.

Q: Are you considering to make use of underwater cultural heritage to dive inside these natural parks in Andalusia? In the project MUSES – Multi-use in European Seas – we are exploring this combination of maritime uses as one interesting for Spain and Portugal.
A: The use of underwater cultural heritage is problematic in the area of La Breña because there are large quantities of wrecks from the Battle of Trafalgar among others. However, they are located in deep areas, with strong currents and with sandy bottoms that hide them. To solve these problems, it has been proposed to install protection/ production reefs in suitable areas of the MPA in order to recreate these cultural assets and serve as an attraction for divers while diversifying ecological niches and combating activities such as illegal fishing by trawling. It is a very attractive field in which we are interested in participating.
In Parque Natural del Estrecho, as in all the Andalusian coast, there are areas of archaeological interest that cannot be accessed without authorisation from the Culture Department. As in La Breña, they are located in places quite inaccessible due to the natural characteristics of the Strait. Another issue are wrecks with no archaeological interest that are very attractive and visited by divers.

Q: What are the possibilities to integrate underwater cultural heritage in diving activities in these natural parks? Any barriers of divers that would allow or not this possibility?
A: This would entail an agreement with the Culture Department to value if it is viable visiting the heritage without applying too much enforcement.

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