One of the main challenges in marine conservation is the social acceptability of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The traditional top-down approach to MPAs, which starts with the distribution of intrinsic natural features, often results in limited interaction with stakeholders until after the MPA has been designated and the conservation objectives have been defined. This leads to a defensive attitude towards MPAs, which is counteracted by showcasing the assets of MPAs, with varying levels of success.
BLUE4ALL is a groundbreaking project that aims to address the challenges faced in marine conservation and restoration in Europe. EU Member States aim to legally protect 30% of Europe's sea and land areas, with one third of these areas under strict protection. BLUE4ALL proposes a new approach to MPAs, aligning a bottom-up approach with the top-down approach to regulatory expectations as defined by the EU Biodiversity Strategy and national initiatives. This approach places stakeholders at the "steering wheel" from the outset of the MPA process, with adequate interaction and co-creation as the starting point. This bottom-up approach runs as a thread through all aspects of the MPA process, ensuring that the needs and concerns of stakeholders are addressed from the outset.
In order to develop tools for preserving and restoring the marine environment in a socially sustainable and acceptable way, BLUE4ALL will bring together and work in close interaction with stakeholders from 25 information sites and Living Labs as real world examples of existing MPAs and networks of MPAs located in the Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, and North-East Atlantic regions. By gathering lessons learned from these sites, the promising frameworks will be improved and BLUE4ALL will result with robust and replicable tools based on science. These tools will be tested in Living Labs, involving co-creation with stakeholders, and ensuring that conservation and restoration objectives are met.BLUE4ALL will ultimately lead to a co-created and tested (proof of concept) Blueprint Platform for creating effective, efficient and resilient MPAs and networks of MPAs, as a user-friendly platform for MPA managers and authorities to use in their work.
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