Protecting Essential Fish Habitats - Oceana Europe

Habitat Protection

Protecting Essential Fish Habitats

Coral gardens, kelp forests, sponge beds, sea grass meadows, and seamounts are all Essential Fish Habitats—places where fish spawn, breed, feed and mature. They should be protected.



The protection of Essential Fish Habitats contributes to the recovery of overfished stocks. Only a minority of European fish populations can be considered well-managed: in the North-East Atlantic, around 30% of the assessed fish populations are overfished, while the situation in the Mediterranean Sea is even worse, with over 80% of the fish stocks overfished.

Essential Fish Habitats (EFHs)  – where fish spawn, breed, feed and mature – are threatened by human activities, such as bottom trawling. Their destruction has knock-on effects on the fish and other ocean species that depend on them to survive.

Safeguarding these sensitive and critical habitats will contribute to the recovery and health of fish stocks, particularly those that are overfished. But to turn science into reality, we need good management.

Oceana campaigned and won provisions to ban bottom trawling in nursery areas for hake under the EU Western Mediterranean Sea MAP. Yet the EU is still failing to implement a robust ecosystem approach to fisheries management: so-called fish stock recovery areas (FSRAs) have unjustifiably received little political attention, and the effective protection of fish nurseries is falling short of ambition.

Oceana also advocates for the protection of EFHs as well as in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region, via the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), by calling for the creation of a network of Fisheries Restricted Areas and other spatial restrictions for destructive fishing across the entire region. Oceana has been instrumental in setting the ambition and policy agenda in the GFCM concerning EFH and VME.