BLUE4ALL project: effective, efficient and resilient co-creation of Marine Protected Areas for biodiversity conservation

Protected natural areas
Marine environment

The European BLUE4ALL project has been set up to improve marine biodiversity conservation and restoration efforts in the continent's Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Its objectives are to harmonize regulatory requirements and social expectations, in order to bridge the gap between political objectives and stakeholder commitment.

The urgent need to strengthen marine conservation and restoration on a global scale calls for global strategies and innovative solutions. The BLUE4ALL project recognizes this need and leverages collaboration and co-creation to address the challenges encountered in the process of setting up an MPA.

At the heart of BLUE4ALL is the conviction that the best conservation outcomes are achieved when stakeholders are actively involved from the earliest stages of MPA designation, management and facilitation. The project therefore establishes a direct connection with 25 existing MPAs or MPA networks across Europe, which are in this co-creation dynamic. BLUE4ALL aims not only to understand the challenges faced, but also to co-develop and test new solutions where necessary, based on concrete examples.

The end result of the BLUE4ALL project will be an interactive platform called Blueprint - an aid to effective, efficient and resilient MPA networks. It will serve as a knowledge-sharing tool for managers, and will showcase the concrete solutions tested during the project. This platform will be active not only at pan-European level, but also beyond the European Union. It will serve as a guide to support the European Union in the international effort to combat the loss of marine biodiversity.

"We believe that the key to successful marine conservation lies in aligning regulatory expectations with the expectations of local communities and stakeholders," said Steven Degraer, BLUE4ALL Coordinator and Senior Environmental Scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. "BLUE4ALL will pave the way for a new initiative of co-creation and collaboration in the design and management of MPAs, ensuring the preservation and responsible use of our precious marine ecosystems.

The project is driven by the need to meet and exceed global targets for the protection of terrestrial and marine areas. The European Union's Biodiversity Strategy 2030 sets a clear target of legally protecting at least 30% of land and sea in the European Union, with a third of these areas under strong protection. However, current assessments indicate that the European MPA network is currently unable to meet these ecological targets, and faces challenges such as small areas, inadequate management and/or enforcement.

By adopting a bottom-up approach and integrating stakeholders into the MPA designation and animation process, BLUE4ALL aims to master these challenges and contribute to the restoration of our oceans and waters. The project is consistent with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2031 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

BLUE4ALL will actively engage with relevant services, initiatives and infrastructures such as EMODnet, the Copernicus Marine Service, Lifewatch, and the Digital Twin of the Ocean (DTO), ensuring the use of state-of-the-art technologies and knowledge.