It’s not looking good for habitat and species protection in the Mediterranean, a big deadline is coming up and EU Member States from the region are failing to meet their obligations, despite the looming threat of financial penalties. But let me rewind a bit, to give you a bit of background.
The Habitats Directive is the EU golden standard for nature conservation that lists land and marine species and habitats of community interest that Member States must protect. These protected areas make up the Natura 2000 Network.
The first phase of the Directive involved Member States suggesting areas for protection and in September 2006, they were granted six years to draw up management plans to move forward with conservation efforts.
Well that deadline is 10 days away (September 21st), and despite ample time, Mediterranean Member States are lagging and it’s looking like they won’t be done in time. In fact, approximately 700 marine areas, covering nearly 18.000km2 of the Mediterranean Sea, lack the management plans required by the Directive to be designated as Special Areas of Conservation, thereby delaying protection for bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead turtles, seagrass meadows and many others.
The European Commission warned in 2010 that too few areas have been proposed to protect the 18 species and five marine habitats included in the Habitats Directive for European waters – which is already insufficient, given the current biodiversity and the daily significant increases in available information on their status and conservation needs. The fact that on top of this, Member States have not seen fit to abide by this deadline, is unjustifiable and inexcusable.
There is so much at stake.