The future EU Nature Restoration Law (NRL) is the most important European nature conservation legislation of the last 30 years, and it will provide a unique opportunity to revert the current path of destruction of our natural ecosystems. The law is now going through political negotiations in the European Parliament and the EU Council, and yet, its potential impact on ocean and marine ecosystems remains largely unknown, including to EU politicians who will have to vote in a near future.
To address this lack of knowledge, on March 20th, Oceana supported the organization of an event in the European Parliament, with the outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, about ocean restoration. Short film screenings and a panel discussion brought together a diverse group of participants, who provided inspiring first-hand experiences of business, science, and marine restoration. Out of the fruitful discussions came several testimonies explaining how coastal and ocean businesses directly rely on healthy ecosystems and benefit from nature restoration. Mediterranean small-scale fishermen in the south of France, for example, helped strictly protect an area to allow marine ecosystems and fish to recover and successfully secure a future for their fisheries. Key messages from the event included:
- “Without marine biodiversity, there will be no fishing nor fishers. As such, a “binding” legislation with concrete deadlines and objectives to manage the effects of climate change is urgently required” – Caroline Roose, Member of the European Parliament, Greens/EFA, France.
- “Protecting this area [450 hectares near Cap Roux, France] was an initiative of local fishers to preserve their jobs and their future. The area is closed to all extraction and (…) benefits of restoration are already visible: there are more and bigger fish. It helped repopulate stocks in adjacent areas at a quick pace”– Christian Decugis, President, Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE), France.
- “While some may seek to appease those arguing against the NRL or the need to restore marine ecosystems, we must remember that we will all suffer if we do not act. Time is the greatest gift we can give to the ocean, but we do not have the luxury of time. Restoration measures must take place now” – Vera Coelho, Senior Director of Advocacy, Oceana in Europe.
The Nature Restoration Law is our best chance to rebuild nature and our ocean back to a healthy state, resilient to climate threats. Importantly, this is supported by multiple voices from the private sector. They believe that adopting an ambitious and binding NRL should not be delayed because what threatens their business models is actually the continuous degradation of nature (and related instability and disruption), which ultimately increases the overall costs for businesses1.
In terms of ocean restoration specifically, Vera Coelho summarized three ways to ensure the NRL does not fail the ocean:
- Adopt strict deadlines for future Joint Recommendations, necessary to deliver ocean restoration (to be adopted under Article 11 of the Common Fisheries Policy).
- Use passive restoration by default, to allow the ocean to recover on its own, without human intervention and in a cost-effective way.
- Protect restored areas by ensuring that 10% of EU waters are strictly protected.
Beth Thoren, Patagonia EMEA Environmental Director, outside the European Parliament on 20 March.
Read the event summary.
1. “Even businesses are pleading for a nature restoration law”, Birdlife (2023)