Area Marina Protetta Portofino (Portofino Marine Protected Area), leader of the NEPTUNE project, was created in 1999 by the cities of Camogli, Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure. It was the first MPA in Italy to obtain in 2005 the status of ASPIM assigned by RAC/SPA (Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas) in Tunis. L-TER (Long Term ecological research) site since 2007 for monitoring the water column. Despite its small size, it is an area of high natural value and biodiversity (here we find the SIC IT1332674 Fondali Monte di Portofino), visited by a large number of tourists. AMP Portofino has the highest number of divers in the Mediterranean basin with over 40,000 dives per year. The importance of its seabed, due to its remarkable biodiversity and rich biocoenosis have turned it into one of the pearls of the Mediterranean basin. In recent years underwater diving has reached in Italy levels of mass tourism, finding in the AMP the ideal environment to develop and progress. In collaboration with the University of Genoa (DISTAV – D Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra dell’Ambiente e della Vita – Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences), the implementing agency, management systems have been developed within the Neptune project to ensure sustainable scuba diving in compliance with all criteria of environmental and economic sustainability.
Liguria’s parks and natural areas system offers an overview of its extraordinary environmental variety, accounting for almost 12% of the regional territory, for a total surface of about 60 thousand hectares. Moreover, with its 126 sites of the Natura 2000 Network, Liguria ranks 5th in Italy for the natural value of its territory. Several actions have been taken by Regione Liguria thanks to the NEPTUNE project. Here are just a few of them: monitoring and improving management of coastal habitats; enhancing the main regional sites for underwater activities; developing an organic strategy for the management and monitoring of underwater sites. Through the exchange of experience and knowledge on common coastal habitats, Regione Liguria has also improved planning of Natura 2000 coastal sites, thus favouring the protection of the species and attaining the objectives of the European Biodiversity Strategy. To meet these objectives, different territorial realities (implementing bodies) have been involved, in particular: Area di Tutela Marina (Marine Protection Area – MPA) Capo Mortola, Area Marina Protetta isola di Bergeggi (Marine Protected Area of the Bergeggi Isle), Area Marina Protetta delle Cinque Terre (Marine Protected Area of Cinque Terre) and Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente Ligure (ARPAL – Regional Agency for the Protection of the Ligurian Environment).
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park Authority, created in 1996, manages land and sea areas of this archipelago. Its main purpose is to safeguard natural and anthropic values, promote sustainable activities and develop strategies aimed at environmental protection. Since 2009 it has been provided with a Park Plan and is currently working on the Regulations, an essential tool to govern this area. The protected waters cover an area of about 600 sq. Km. around the islands of the Archipelago. The following are some of the main actions that have been addressed by the NEPTUNE project: increased awareness of the underwater heritage, meetings with stakeholders and studies to verify the impact of underwater activities to undertake any consequent measures including the installation of a video surveillance system.
The Directorate General for Environment – Nature Protection and Forest Policies Service of Regione Autonoma Sardegna RAS (Autonomous Region of Sardinia) ensures protection of natural areas of national and regional interest and of wildlife. RAS being the agency enforcing the Habitats and Birds Directives, also plans Natura 2000 Network, coordinates, promotes and funds initiatives for the protection and enhancement of habitats and species, but also schedules actions in areas of natural interest. Regione Autonoma Sardegna contributed to the project with its experience gained in managing and planning the Regional Ecological Network. Within the NEPTUNE project, the Area Marina Protetta AMP (Marine Protected Area) of the Asinara Island is the implementing agency in agreement with RAS. This choice was made for the natural and cultural importance of this protected area. Special surveys were carried out in the underwater archaeological site of Cala Reale and several actions were taken to ensure access to the underwater environment for people with motor and visual disabilities, by designing new underwater natural and cultural routes accessible to all. Moreover, innovative multimedia promotional and communication material will be provided.
With 1,000 Km. of coastline, the Mediterranean Sea and its coastline is a remarkable resource for Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, both in terms of employment, attraction and as a reserve of biodiversity. The new maritime policy launched by Région Sud is based on a constant discussion with all stakeholders in the area, resulting into actions promoting economic development while preserving its heritage. Région Sud is also the “world cradle of scuba diving”. It has exceptional potentials for the development and promotion of the multi-sectoral “industry” of diving activities, both nationally and internationally. In this context Région Sud, together with Italian and regional partners, is taking part in the NEPTUNE project, to enhance awareness and accessibility to the natural and cultural underwater heritage in the area of cooperation. As a sharing project, Neptune aims in particular at creating a “regional and cross-border tour of pilot sites for discovery, exploration and innovation in underwater diving”, a showcase for the promotion of regional and cross-border underwater activities. Among its actions, an experimental system of virtual access to underwater discovery and exploration will be implemented starting from 2022 in 5 pilot sites in the Var, Alpes-Maritimes and Rhône Mouths, involving all players in this area. Région Sud is currently commissioning audio-visuals and providing the pilot sites with innovative means of distribution, that will allow the public to experience virtual underwater exploration “out of the water”.
Centre de Découverte Mer et Montagne CDMM, created in 1991, is a key player in all issues related to environmental education and sustainable development in the Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. In particular, it plays an important role in all issues related to snorkelling, having gained experience and bonds with the local community and divers since 2007. CDMM organizes snorkelling tours, carries out activities in protected natural areas and along the coast of the region. The skills and experience of CDMM are appreciated thanks to the various activities developed in three areas: LEISURE (leisure activities for all, particularly by using sport as a means of discovery), EDUCATION (educating the public in schools and through awareness campaigns) and EXPERTISE (support and training), applied locally and in the Mediterranean area thanks to EMN. Founded in 2000, the EMN (Mediterranean Environment Network) aims at bringing together promoters of environmental education and at organizing, in particular, the “Assises Jeunes et Méditerranée”, meetings and exchanges on the Mediterranean environment. For the NEPTUNE project, CDMM drew up a cross-border charter of good practices for snorkelling, awareness-raising actions and created a space for the enhancement of underwater natural and cultural heritage accessible to as many people as possible, in the area of Nice, one of the pilot sites of the project.
Parc national Port Cros PNCP is one of the oldest marine parks in Europe, with a long experience in the management of terrestrial and marine protected areas, in the field of biodiversity monitoring and anthropic pressure as well as in environmental education actions. PNCP works in close collaboration with all subjects involved in “diving” and has drawn up diving regulations that restrict this activity in order to protect the natural and cultural underwater heritage. At the same time, PNCP has specific experience in the development of eco-tourism activities. Within NEPTUNE, PNPC has worked to highlight the underwater heritage by developing an offer accessible to all through snorkelling excursions and diving, and by setting up museographic tools, enhancing this heritage on land. Participation in the project has allowed PNPC to define its own strategy for the enhancement of underwater heritage, for reinforcing the network of underwater trails and funding the creation and installation of tools aimed at improving accessibility and awareness of the general public on the underwater heritage.