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Many European Marine Protected Areas in Poor Condition

26 May 2015

EU - Many marine conservation areas set up by the EU are in unfavourable condition, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The State of Nature report is a six-year assessment of the conservation status of threatened European habitats and species protected under the Natura 2000 network, the world’s largest network of nature conservation areas.

Oceana warns that most EU marine species and habitats within the Natura 2000 network remain in poor or unknown condition, and calls upon Member States to fulfil their management obligations to prevent the disappearance of biodiversity.

Although relatively few marine features are included in this group, marine conservation charity Oceana has noted that:

  • None of the marine habitats assessed in the Atlantic, Baltic or Mediterranean regions are considered to be in good condition.
  • In the Atlantic, 71 per cent of marine habitats are considered to be in unfavourable status.
  • In the Baltic, the status of 86 per cent of marine habitats and 80 per cent of marine species is unfavourable.
  • In the Mediterranean, 62 per cent of marine habitats are of unfavourable status, as are 56 per cent of marine species.
  • The status of many marine species remains unknown, especially in continental shelf ecosystems (54 per cent) and open ocean ecosystems (83 per cent).

“Weak or non-existent management is the primary reason why most marine Natura 2000 sites are not yet delivering conservation results for Europe’s marine heritage.

"For instance, most are entirely lacking fisheries regulations, even though fisheries are recognised as the major threat inside these areas,” stated Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.

“By failing to properly manage sites, or monitor their effects on threatened species and habitats, Member States are blocking their own efforts from succeeding.”

The Natura 2000 network was historically created for terrestrial nature conservation, but has gradually been developed at sea since 2008, when the first fully marine sites were designated.

Currently the network covers roughly 4 per cent of EU waters versus 18 per cent of land surface. These sites are also pivotal to Member States’ plans to achieve Good Environmental Status for the marine environment by 2020 under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, a centerpiece of EU marine legislation.

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