Environmental experts are warning that marine life across Europe is being harmed because EU member states are neglecting to actively manage their marine protected areas.
Environmental organisations – including ClientEarth, Coalition Clean Baltic, Oceana, Seas at Risk and WWF – have called for urgent political action from European leaders to improve the situation. This includes better management of these areas to ensure the conservation status of protected habitats and species and to stop human activities that continue to harm these ‘safe havens’.
The lack of action risks much of the biodiversity within the marine Natura 2000 network of protected sites, which, on paper, protects around 10% of the European Union’s waters.
However, in reality, marine life in much of these areas is under increasing threat, due to a lack of management, monitoring and financing of conservation efforts. Member states are now in danger of breaking their obligation to improve marine conservation by 2020 as set by both the Aichi 11 target of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the EU.
This week, EU countries will meet in Mallorca for the second EU-wide marine seminar to discuss ways to guarantee conservation and management of marine Natura 2000 sites.
The meeting is part of an ongoing process launched by the European Commission in 2012 to help member states improve the status of species and habitats protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. It contributes to the objective of the EU Biodiversity Strategy of preserving EU’s remarkable and vulnerable marine life.
The network of protected areas is not evenly distributed among the countries and, in most cases, the management and monitoring of the sites are incomplete and compromised by insecure financing. This is putting the entire goal of creating a network of marine protected areas to conserve and restore EU’s marine life at risk.
ClientEarth Conservation Wildlife Lawyer Tatiana Lujan said: “On paper, European nations have made important advances in designating marine protected areas. However, in reality, these sites will only protect Europe’s marine biodiversity if concrete action is taken.
“Member states must now set objectives that are coherent with the conservation status of these sites – including restoring areas that need it – and ensure that activities within these sites, such as fishing, are not harming the sites’ integrity or the chances of their restoration.”