It was an impossible dream as a child, so I had to take it step by step. If you want to be like Commander Cousteau, you need to prepare yourself. My father gave me 200 dinars to buy a mobile phone but I spent it learning how to dive instead! Now I’m very lucky to do this work.
As project manager with the MedKeyHabitats team for the UN Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA), Yassine Ramzi Sghaier supports implementation of the Barcelona Convention’s Biodiversity Protocol on protecting key Mediterranean marine and coastal biodiversity.
With RACSPA since 2010, and now leading its MedKeyHabitats 2II project, Yassine is mapping unknown but critical seagrass and coralligenous habitats in the southern and eastern Mediterranean. His team’s new data underpin efforts by Algeria, Cyprus, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey to create marine protected areas.
“Parts of Libya and Algeria are still completely pristine. It’s like the Med would’ve been 2,000 years ago. I’ve found red coral at only 15m and been surrounded by turtles and grouper. We don’t have all the colours of the Red Sea but we have more diversity.”
Small sea, big ideas
The Mediterranean is a relatively small sea so what happens in one part affects the whole, necessitating a regional approach to protecting remaining hotspots. Establishing just one effective marine protected area can take several years of painstaking work but it is a process in which Yassine and RAC/SPA specialise.
Working across cultures and language, the organisation enables countries to make their own decisions about conservation by providing information, training experts and facilitating dialogue rather than by trying to sell any particular solution.
“Notre Grand Bleu are a new NGO making a big impact in the Kuriat Islands – the last nesting place for loggerhead turtles in the western Mediterranean. Their co-management approach with the public sector is unique – we need more of it across the region.”
Reconciling fisheries and biodiversity
Yassine’s work with RAC/SPA is typical of our partners’ approach to marine conservation in the Mediterranean – reaching out to partners in government and civil society, helping them make smarter choices that reconcile society’s need for resources with ecosystem health. Read more about MAVA’s action plan on this subject.