Oceana brings the destruction of posidonia in Formentera the the European Parliament

The Euro MP Raül Romeva has put forward a parliamentary question to the Environment Commissioner, which he must answer in December.

Press Release Date: October 19, 2011

Location: Madrid


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Romeva asks for initiatives which guarantee the compliance with the Habitats Directive in Spain and demands compensation measures for the damaged areas, which are estimated at 19,000 dollars per hectare.

The Euro MP Raül Romeva has put forward a question to the European Parliament after the denouncement of Oceana regarding the destruction of Posidonia oceanica prairies this summer in Ses Salinas d’Eivissa i Formentera, an environment declared as a Site of Community Importance (SCI). The parliamentary question enquires about the actions that are going to be taken to tackle these facts, including compensatory measures of an economic nature.

In August, Oceana was made aware of the destruction of underwater prairies by irregular anchorages, facts which have already been communicated on different occasions, and documented the damages originated by massive and uncontrolled anchorages of recreational vessels.

Subsequently, the international organization for marine conservation has got in touch with the Central Government, the Balearic Government, UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and has presented a formal complaint before the European Commission for infringing the community regulations. Yesterday the parliamentary question put forward by Romeva, from the Verts/ALE group,  which requires a written answer from the Environment Commissioner, Janez Poto?nik, no later than early December, was publicised.

Posidonia oceanica forms prairies which constitute a priority habitat contemplated in the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and, as it concerns an endemic plant in the Mediterranean, is recognised by the United Nations in the Mediterranean framework as a threatened ecosystem. Furthermore, the Berne Convention considers it to be a strictly protected species and establishes the prohibition to intentionally cut or disroot these plants.

But not only do international measures endorse the conservation of this type of habitats, but it is also recognised in the national legislation under Law 42/2007 of National Heritage and Biodiversity, and in the autonomous legislation under the protection form of Natural Park since 2001 (Law 17/2001 of environmental protection of Ses Salines d’Eivissa i Formentera).

The most extensive and best preserved Posidonia prairies of the Spanish coastline are found in the Balearic Sea and, in fact, its importance has been the reason for being declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the rest of the country, a big part of the prairies have disappeared for different reasons such as contamination, urbanization of the coast, introduction of exotic species or spillages which increase the turbidity of the water.

In this sense, Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe explains that: “The Posidonia prairies constitute one of the most representative natural values of the Balearic sea and together with other European protected areas have been included in the Natura 2000 network. For this reason, the competent authorities have the obligation to enforce the relevant autonomous, national and European legislation and to make sure that the natural values which led to the declaration of said area are not diminished or damaged”.

Its conservation is not only a legal imperative; it has also been estimated that the goods and services generated by the prairies of spermatophytes amount to more than 19,000 dollars per hectare and year, therefore it is considered that a series of compensatory measures should be established for the economic loss which entails its deterioration or destruction. This aspect is also put forward in the parliamentary question.

“The Natura 2000 Network in the marine environment has been declared as insufficient in the assessments carried out by the European Commission”, explains Pastor. “On this basis, it is of vital importance to conserve these underwater treasures which are also highly productive areas and provide many goods and services to the Balearic community and represent an added value for the quality image of the Balearic Islands”.

The relevance of these prairies mainly lies in the fact that they shelter a high biodiversity, since they provide the habitat to a multitude of marine species, stabilize the substratum counteracting the erosion of the coast and are also responsible for a high production of oxygen and organic matter, and at the same time constitute an important CO2 sink.

Oceana has available photos, video images and a map showing the location of the damages caused by anchorages.