Announcement on Joint Audit on “Management of Marine Protected Areas”

30.07.2019

Having in mind the importance of the Marine Protected Areas for their countries, the Supreme Audit Institutions of Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Portugal, as members of EUROSAI and the Working Group on Environmental Audit (EUROSAI WGEA) , decided to undertake a joint audit with a view to reviewing the mechanisms applied by these countries to ensure the adequate and effective management of the Marine Protected Areas within their jurisdiction. The audit was conducted throughout 2018 and coordinated by the SAI-s of Cyprus and Malta. Participation in this audit confirmed once again the commitment and importance each country attaches to the protection of the marine environment in the Mediterranean.

To this end, the participating countries conducted a joint performance audit under the key question “Are the appropriate mechanisms in place applied for the effective designation and management of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean?”. In summary, participating SAI-s reported that there are no specific strategies that guide the MPA management and consequently have difficulty in clearly defining common criteria defining a marine protected area. Likewise, in most cases there is reported a overlap or conflict between the provisions that apply to this type of management.

Specifically in this joint audit, ALSAI was engaged through the audit of the Karaburun-Sazan Marine Protected Area, which is the only Marine Protected Area in our country. The organs that mainly exercise their administrative functions in and around the marine park are the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Defense, National Agency of Protected Areas with its regional branch AdPA Vlora, National Coastal Agency, National Tourism Agency, Fishery Inspectorate, and the Regional Environmental Inspectorate. All of these organs, by legal affiliation, are essentially aimed at preserving the PA. Although the purpose is common, these units mostly work on their own, without coordination, and there is a lack of information sharing, thus affecting the level of efficiency of the park management process. It is also found that there is a lack of cooperation mostly by the inspectorates who, as the law confers punitive powers on offenders, are considered to be more "authoritarian" seeking the assistance and cooperation of AdPA, but not vice versa, mainly in exchange of informations. This chaos in the management of the National Marine Park and the overlap or non-cooperation between the stakeholders involved has been due to the lack of a proper regulatory framework for protected areas for years. In the absence of a special administration responsible for the protected areas, their management is done in pieces, according to the legal framework of the stakeholders involved.

It is a fact that since 2010, our country, though with considerable potential, has been left with only one marine protected area, so it has not been paid proper attention to this category. The management plan has been drafted with clear objectives, grouped into categories according to the interest and values ​​of the area, as well as set out in time frames, but it is not accompanied by an action plan, so there are no concrete measures and actions to be taken by this administration to achieve these objectives. The management plan has been drafted in the framework of the project “Improving the Coverage and Effectiveness of the Management of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas” of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) financed by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and co- financed by the Ministry of Environment and UNDP, so it was drafted based on the investment plans this organization has envisioned.

Good management of this park does not appear to have been in the focus of the government and if this management plan were not supported by the project, these objectives would be too ambitious to be achieved only by AdPA Vlora. Given the very limited capacities of AdZM Vlora, both in human and financial resources, there has been no SMART study in the compilation of objectives to see if they can be met under the conditions that this administration has, besides supporting the project. Due to the limited powers and resources this administration has, it fails to carry out effective monitoring and control of the area under its jurisdiction. Specifically, AdPA Vlora does not have accurate and official statistics on the number of visitors and divers using the park, fished species, etc., as:

- firstly, there is a lack of a financial mechanism, that would not only bring in revenue from ticket sales but could also enable the control of user flows in the park. In this regard, we also mention the fact that since the beginning of the management plan development, no measures have been taken to realising a survey on carrying capacity for users.

- secondly, the current regulatory framework for this administration does not provide for the obtaining of prior permits from various individuals or operators who wish to conduct activities of any kind in the park.

- third, there is a lack of cooperation with other stakeholders in the area.

At the conclusion of this joint audit, SAI-s acknowledged that the marine environment is a potential factor for economic growth and development. In this context, it is recommended that national authorities step up efforts to ensure the proper balance between conservation and use of these areas for economic purposes.