marchio pieno

logo by Massimo Demma

The Central Institute for Applied Marine Research, ICRAM (Istituto Centrale per la Ricerca Applicata al Mare) was the Italian governmental body providing scientific support to the development of national marine conservation policy. ICRAM was recently merged, together with other institutions, into the Higher Institute for Environmental Research and Protection, ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e Ricerca Ambientale).

In 1996 the President of Italy nominated me President of ICRAM, a position which I held until 2003 shortly before the end of my second mandate, when the right-wing government of the moment, whose environment-unfriendliness was above average, decided to avail itself of the spoils system to throw me out of office.

My role, dictated by the requirement of advising and supporting government policies on the full range of issues connected with marine conservation – from the disposal of toxic muds dredged from harbours to the nearly impossible challenges of sustainable aquaculture – was highly inspirational and formative, and forced me to widen my views by appreciating that large marine vertebrates, although fascinating and ecologically important as they certainly are, are not the only relevant component of the world they live in, and that marine conservation is mostly effective if contemplated within a more articulate, ecosystemic approach. In 1998, as the President of ICRAM I was part of the Italian delegation at the Meeting of the G8 Environment Ministers in Leeds Castle, U.K. (April); I attended to the 4th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bratislava, Slovakia (May), to the Italian ­ French Summit in Florence (October), and to the 2nd London Oceans Workshop (December). In 2001 I attended to the FAO Committee on Fisheries in Rome (February), and to the FAO Conference on responsible fisheries in the marine ecosystems, Reykjavik (October).

During my presidency of ICRAM, amongst other things I created and funded a specific programme to develop national actions plans for the conservation of endangered marine species, to be adopted by Italy in fulfilment of the obligations involved in the ratification of the Barcelona Convention Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean.


logo by Massimo Demma

This experience opened for me the doors to the world of MPAs, which I had previously been dunked into only when dealing with the Pelagos Sanctuary. At that time I had been requested by the Minister of the environment to develop a nation-wide programme to provide scientific support to the establishment and management of MPAs in Italy. As a result, I convened and chaired a national workshop for the coordination of research in Italian marine reserves (Rome, 1999). Subsequently, in cooperation with consultant Dr. Tundi Agardy and other colleagues, I developed and funded Sistema Afrodite, a comprehensive, long-term programme of monitoring and inventorying of species and habitats in the core zones of the entire complement of Italian MPAs; Afrodite saw the cooperation of about 60 researchers belonging to more than 20 research groups, and which allowed, among other things, to compare the different Italian MPAs in terms of actual enforcement effectiveness.

In 2002 I was also involved in the organisation and hosting in Rome of an ICRAM EU-funded workshop, “Towards the co-ordination of scientific research in marine protected areas – international workshop on the development of a European research network (Afrodite – WS)” where the potential of extending Afrodite to the whole of the Mediterranean was debated. Unfortunately, the Afrodite programme was a collateral victim of the aggressive action of the government against ICRAM in 2003, and was terminated before it could bear the full weight of its fruits.