The “Medes islands” example
The Medes islands (Illes Medes) are a complex of seven small rocky islets located on Spain’s Mediterranean coast in the region of Catalonia, approximately a hundred and twenty kilometers north-east of Barcelona.
They are only a mile away from the coastal resort of l’Estartit and constitute one of the best-known and most important protected marine parks in the Mediterranean.
The islands were first protected from all fishing in 1983 and this was enshrined in law in 1990. Today they constitute perhaps the best-known example worldwide of how to combine true environment protection with sustainable development for the general region.
The islands, once run down and ruined by overfishing, have been transformed into an incredible, living, underwater paradise, far exceeding even the most optimistic estimates of scientists, who have to date recorded approximately 1,350 different species of marine flora and fauna, with unbelievable populations in a marine area of just 93.2 hectares (0.932 sq. kms), which forms the core of the park.
At the same time, since the beginning of the nineteen nineties, the Medes islands have become what is perhaps the most popular diving destination in the Mediterranean, with 70,000 dives annually. Scientists set the maximum number of permitted dives at four hundred and fifty (450) a day, so as to limit the disturbance of the marine flora and fauna.
Finally, the lively diving crowd that floods the area due to the marine park, has brought with it a previously inconceivable prosperity and an economic upswing, transforming Estartit from a small village to the modern, large and well-known resort it is today, which, thanks to its proximity to the diving park, has become known throughout the world.
It is worth noting that diving tourism offers Estartit an annual income of 10 million euros, more than 70% of the local GDP; while, at the same time, it has created 200 new job positions through 16 new business.