The Marine Protected Area (MPA) of the Egadi Islands, with an extension of 53,992 hectares, is the largest marine reserve in the Mediterranean Sea. Located off the northwest coast of Sicily Island, it surrounds the Egadi archipelago, including the islands of Favignana, Levanzo, Marettimo and the islets of Formica and Maraone. Established in 1991, since 2001 it is managed by the Municipality of Favignana on behalf of the Italian Ministry for the Environment. It is a highly valued area from the natural point of view: The MPA includes the largest (about 7,700 hectares) and best preserved Posidonia Ocenica of the Mediterranean Sea. Posidonia, internationally protected habitat, is considered the green lung of the Mediterranean Sea, playing different roles crucial to the marine ecosystem: as well as producing oxygen and absorbing CO2, it helps mitigate coastal erosion through the formation of “banquettes” produced by the accumulation of dead leaves washed ashore by tidal surges; it also protects the youth of hundreds of species of organisms, forming an area of vital nursery. In the seabeds there is abundance of coralligenous and precoralligenous habitats and vermetid “trottoirs”, delicate environments formed by the cementation of shells of the gastropod Dendropoma petraeum, in association with calcareous algae, outcropping along the coast. There are many submerged and semi submerged caves .
The presence of so many and different habitats generates a very high biodiversity in the Egadi: among the protected animal species, the presence of the very rare monk seal, a symbol of the Mediterranean, already extinct in Italy, has been recently documented; it is also present the sea turtle Caretta caretta, various species of cetaceans (bottlenose dolphins, stenellas and sperm whales), some species of sharks and an important colony of storm-petrels, a marine bird endemic to the Mediterranean. Fish fauna is rich and varied. We mention, among the most famous species, the Dusky Grouper, the Wreckfish, the Brown Meagre, the Croaker, the Sparids (Sparidae), including the Dentex, the Zebra Bream, and the Amberjack.
There are 76 diving sites in the MPA, either superficial (but with exceptional values) or deep, in caves or in underwater archaeological sites (the Egadi were the scene of the famous naval battle between the Romans and the Carthaginians, in an area located north-west of Levanzo). Snorkelling and guided sea-watching are widely practiced. Many of the underwater marine protected itineraries are described in detail at http://egadi.santateresa.enea.it.
The Marine Protected Area is divided into four zones (A, B, C and D) with different levels of protection and with different accessibility and limitations in usability. It is absolutely appropriate to get information about the rules first. For information and requests for permits to practice activities within the MPA, please visit www.ampisoleegadi.it, autorizzazionionline.ampisoleegadi.it or write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. MPA is also on Facebook.
The MPA is a member of Federparchi and MedPAN network, it is twinned with Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary (California, USA) and is constantly working in synergy with the major environmental associations in Italy (Legambiente, WWF, Greenpeace, Marevivo, Italian Naval League , CTS) as well as with local stakeholders (Gulliver Sailing School, Sercia Museum of Malacology). About 10 staff members, who rise to 40-45 during the summer, work with the MPA, almost all young graduates from the community of the islands or the overlooking coastline. The Managing Body has launched in recent years a process of management, monitoring and control of the territory based on the participation and sharing of local stakeholders. The institutional mission of the MPA is to protect and enhance the marine environment as well as promote sustainable development, environmental education, awareness-raising and information of users, research and monitoring, and an integrated management of the coastal strip, with a particular focus on the eco-compatibility of tourism.
Among the main projects and activities carried out by the MPA, it is worth mentioning the project ‘MASTER’ for the positioning of anti-trawling and restocking stop/net bollards, aimed at reducing the impact of illegal inshore trawling which damages the seabed and depletes fish resources; implemented in Favignana and Levanzo, it had remarkable results (-50% infringements). The phase II of the project, concerning Levanzo and Marettimo is currently underway; the establishment on the three islands of 14 mooring fields during the summer season for a total of 150 buoys, to prevent from the damages caused to the seabed by the anchoring of recreational boats, and enable the stopover in the most picturesque coves; the logo for the environmental certification of tourist services (reception, catering, rental of boats, cars, motorbikes and bikes, sea sightseeing tours, sea and land transport of passengers, recreational fishing, diving, bathing establishments, mooring services) achieved with ENEA’s scientific support, which 70 local operators have already joined; the monitoring project “Vedette del Mare” (Guardians of the Sea) for protected species, with the involvement of local fishermen; the creation of an Observatory for the Study of the Monk Seal in the Castle of Punta Troia in Marettimo, also used as visitors centre and accommodation for the researchers involved in the monitoring of the species; the opening of a Rescue Centre for Marine Turtles in Favignana, managed in collaboration with WWF Italia and Legambiente; the project “Jellyrisk”, for the monitoring and mitigation of the proliferation of jellyfish along the Mediterranean coasts, with the placement of 3 experimental anti-jellyfish networks;
the MPA guide service on motor ships carrying passengers on cruise ships around the islands; the “Blue Mile of Marettimo”, a protected lane of 1852 metres length for free swimming and swimtrekking; the promotion of responsible tourism and eco-sustainable sports such as sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, swimtrekking, cyclotourism, trekking, climbing, triathlon.