Socioeconomic Characteristics


The Mediterranean region is undergoing intensive demographic, social, cultural, economic and environmental changes. Population growth combined with the growth of coastal (peri) urban hubs generates multiple environmental pressures stemming from increased demand for water and energy resources, generation of air and water pollution in relation to wastewater discharge or sewage overflows, waste generation, land consumption and degradation of habitats, unsustainable use of living resources, landscapes and coastlines. These pressures are further amplified by tourism, often concentrated in Mediterranean coastal areas, and overall by climate change.



This chapter will summarize some of the key Socioeconomic characteristics and trends in the Mediterranean

Population and development.

The total population of the Mediterranean countries grew from 281 million in 1970 to 419 million in 2000 and to 472 million in 2010. The population is predicted to reach 572 million by 2030. Four countries account for about 60 % of the total population: Egypt (82 million), Turkey (72 million), France (63 million), and Italy (60 million). The Mediterranean region’s population is concentrated near the coasts. More than a third live in coastal administrative entities totalling less than 12 % of the surface area of the Mediterranean countries. The population of the coastal regions grew from about 100 million in 1980 to 150 million in 2005. It could reach 200 million by 2030. (Plan Bleu, based on UN World Population Prospect 2015 and on national population censuses). The concentration of population in coastal zones is the heaviest in the western Mediterranean, the western shore of the Adriatic Sea, the eastern shore of the Aegean Levantine region, and the Nile Delta (Figures 3.2 and 3.3). Overall, the population density in the coastal zone is higher in the southern Mediterranean countries. This is also where the variability of the population density in the coastal zone is highest, ranging from more than 1000 people/km2 in the Nile Delta to fewer than 20 people/ km2 along parts of coastal Libya (UNEP/MAP, 2012).



The Mediterranean is the world’s leading tourism destination in terms of both international and domestic tourism with more than 300 million international tourist arrivals representing 30% of total world tourists for 2014. International tourist arrivals have grown from 58 million in 1970 to nearly 314 million in 2014, with a forecast of 500 million by 2030. About 50% of these arrivals are in coastal areas (Figure 3.5).


Maritime transport.

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the busiest seas in the world, harvesting 20% of seaborne trade, 10% of world container throughput and over 200 million passengers. Furthermore, as maritime traffic is steadily increasing it adds environmental pressure, such as rising CO2 emissions, pollution, marine litter and collisions with large cetaceans, underwater noise and introduction of non-indigenous species. Container port traffic development shows a clear trend of rapid growth of the sector, which undoubtedly increases the environmental pressure and strengthens the need for a transition to a sustainable maritime.


Energy, Gas and Oil exploration and exploitation, Mining and Manufacturing

The lack of major iron and, especially, coal reserves within the Mediterranean Basin influenced the industrial development path of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Steel production has been concentrated in the north (Italy, France, Spain, Turkey and Greece), with a few producers in the south (Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia). Other mining activity in the Mediterranean has focused on mercury (Spain), phosphates (Morocco, and Tunisia), chromite (Albania and Turkey), lead, salt, bauxite (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Greece, Slovenia and Montenegro) and zinc (Spain and Morocco).


Fisheries and aquaculture

About 85 percent of Mediterranean and Black Sea stocks assessed are fished at biologically unsustainable levels. Demersal stocks experience higher fishing mortality rates, while small pelagic stocks show average fishing mortality rates close to the target (FAO, 2016b). Hake stocks in the Mediterranean Sea show the highest fishing pressure, with a fishing mortality rate that is an average of 5 times higher than the target, and for some specific stocks, up to 12 times higher than the target. Conversely, small pelagic stocks show average fishing mortality rates that are close to the target, while for some specific stocks, the fishing mortality rate is estimated to be below the target. The volume of fishery discards in the Mediterranean is in the order of 230 000 tonnes per year, or about 18 percent of total catches. Bottom trawls are responsible for the bulk of discards (more than 40 percent)


Land-based pollution sources.

Approximately Eighty percent of marine pollution originates from land-based human activities. Different types of pollutants (e.g. nutrients, heavy metals, Persistent Organic Pollutants, marine litter) affect marine and coastal ecosystems and related economic activities such as fishing or tourism.



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