The Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (SPA/RAC) was established in Tunis in 1985 by decision of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution (Barcelona Convention), which entrusted it with responsibility for assessing the situation of natural heritage and assisting the Mediterranean countries to implement the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA/BD Protocol), which came into force in 1999.
Within the context of the implementation of the Barcelona Convention, including the related strategies, programmes and decisions, such as the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) and the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD), the specific objective of SPA/RAC is to contribute to the implementation of the SPA/BD Protocol.
SPA/RAC’s mission is to provide assistance to Mediterranean countries in the implementation of their commitments under the SPA/BD Protocol, especially in regard to developing and promoting Specially Protected Areas (SPAs) and reducing the loss of marine and coastal biodiversity.
The actions carried out by SPA/RAC are aiming for the conservation of habitats, ecosystems, sites and species in the Mediterranean considering sustainable management and the ecosystem approach.
With a view to furthering the implementation of the SPA/BD Protocol, SPA/RAC developed a Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAP BIO), which was adopted by the Contracting Parties in 2003.
Within the framework of this programme SPA/RAC pursues the following basic objectives:
- Fostering improved knowledge of marine and coastal biodiversity;
- Improving the management of existing and facilitating the creation of new Marine and Coastal Protected Areas;
- Enhancing the protection of endangered species and habitats;
- Contributing to the reinforcement of relevant national legislation and national and international capacity-building;
- Contributing to fund-raising efforts.
Therefore, the main fields of action of SPA/RAC are:
- Developing research to complete the knowledge base and fill in knowledge gaps on biodiversity;
- Inventorying, mapping and monitoring coastal and marine biodiversity;
- Assessing and mitigating the impact of threats on biodiversity;
- Conserving sensitive habitats, species and sites;
- Coordinating capacity-building and technical support.