Habitat Protection

The EU Nature Restoration Law

The Nature Restoration Law’s objective is to restore 20% of European seas (and land) by 2030, and almost all degraded ecosystems by 2050.


Why is restoring nature needed?

European biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, with 57% of Atlantic marine habitats, and 75% and 40% of Baltic and Mediterranean marine species respectively, in bad condition. Despite nature conservation laws and targets in place for decades now, European countries have not succeeded in halting the degradation of ecosystems, including marine ones. Adopting a new legally binding law to restore nature is therefore much needed. Further, the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that restoring nature is a key part of the solution to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and meet climate targets. And in this UN decade on ecosystem restoration (2021-2030), the time to act is now!

What is the NRL and why does it matter?

In June 2022, the European Commission proposed a new EU law – the Nature Restoration Law (NRL) – with the objective of restoring 20% of European seas (and land) by 2030, and almost all degraded ecosystems by 2050.

The Nature Restoration Law had the potential to be a gamechanger for the ocean. It is the first EU law on nature in the last 30 years and an opportunity to tackle the triple crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation, by restoring damaged marine habitats to support biodiversity and resilience to climate change.

Promising steps to #RestoreOcean

Oceana has been campaigning for strong fisheries and marine provisions in the law. Following months of negotiations in both the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, where it faced opposition from conservative political forces to water it down or limit its scope, the three institutions finally reached a political agreement in November 2023.

Though less ambitious than the original Commission proposal, the NRL is a win for Europe’s seas, as it will include overarching restoration targets, and a mechanism and a timeline to restrict destructive fishing and allow the restoration of key marine habitats like seagrass meadows and reefs.

Importantly, it will align fisheries policy under the Common Fisheries Policy with the objectives of the NRL. Concretely, this means that EU countries will have to jointly solve problems that occur when the fishing practices of one country could negatively impact the restoration efforts of another – known as the Joint Recommendation procedure. This procedure, already included under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy but on a voluntary basis, will now become mandatory as part of national restoration plans (learn more here).

On June 17th 2024, after two years of hard negotiations between EU institutions and governments, the NRL became reality with its final adoption by EU Environment ministers! This is a fantastic achievement for nature, the ocean and people – especially after EU elections that saw a shift in power moving towards more conservative and anti-environment forces. The Nature Restoration Law creates a legally-binding framework to restore 20% of EU seas by 2030, and includes important advances to restrict destructive fishing practices in restoration areas, which Oceana and partners secured in the law. The law now will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the official journal of the EU – expected after the summer 2024. After that, EU countries will have two years to draw up national restoration plans and submit them to the European Commission for assessment.

Watch our video on why we need an ambitious Nature Restoration Law. Also available in Spanish, French, and German.

What are the economic benefits of marine restoration?

A European Commission impact assessment on the NRL proposal showed that every euro spent on restoration delivers a return on investment between EUR 8 and EUR 38, depending on the ecosystem, in benefits from the many services healthy ecosystems provide. Indeed, it says, the benefits of nature restoration far outweigh the costs.

Several examples of strictly protected MPAs in Europe have proven successful in boosting not only fishers’ catch and income, but also local ‘blue’ economy activities which rely on a healthy ocean, like tourism, recreational activities, and hospitality – diving, angling, boating, hotels and restaurants. The blue economy sector in Europe employs almost five million people  with coastal tourism accounting for 50% of the employment, and fisheries and aquaculture for 10%.

Businesses also recognise the need for the NRL

In March 2023, Oceana teamed up with outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia to organize a film screening event about ocean restoration in the European Parliament, followed by a panel discussion with members of European Parliament (MEPs) Catherine Chabaud, Caroline Roose and Isabelle Carvalhais, Mr Decugis (President of the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE)) and protagonists of Patagonia’s films. The event illustrated the multiple benefits of nature restoration for businesses and local coastal communities across Europe and shed light on progressive businesses like Patagonia or LIFE, who voiced their support for it. Read more in our blog and watch Patagonia EMEA Environmental Director explaining why the law matters for businesses:

Beth Thoren, Director of Environmental Action at Patagonia, explains how businesses will benefit from the Nature Restoration Law.

Progressive businesses are showing their support for the Nature Restoration Law. They rely on natural resources and see that restoring nature is critical for their future survival. Investing in nature restoration is an insurance to buffer against the instability of degrading nature, which already generates unforeseen disruptions to business operations and supply chains. Learn more here.

The same vision is shared by citizens. Oceana is an active supporter of the #RestoreNature (and #RestoreOcean!) campaign. We joined an initiative to engage citizens and supporters to get their elected politicians to support the ambition of the proposed Nature Restoration Law. It involved sending a message to citizens’ national MEPs and government ministers with a personalised image depicting a restored marine landscape and resulted in over 1 million messages!



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