Oceana calls for urgent measures to halt marine biodiversity loss in protected areas

Press Release Date: May 8, 2015

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana warns that even though fishing within Natura 2000 marine areas is a major threat to protected species and habitats, most of these sites lack measures to regulate it. Campaigners from the marine conservation organisation have called for the establishment of effective management measures during the first EU biogeographical seminar on marine Natura 2000 management, held this week in Saint Malo, France. Critical measures include improving the selectivity of fishing gear to avoid by-catch of protected species and prohibiting the use of certain fishing techniques, such as bottom trawling, that damage protected habitats.

“Coastal EU Member States must urgently address these gaps in management to halt the ongoing deterioration of marine habitats and species, and ensure that the overall health of marine environments has improved by 2020, as required under European law,” explained Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe. “With proper management, many Natura 2000 sites would allow fish stocks to rebound while also protecting the species and habitats that they were designed to conserve.”

Oceana has found that in the Baltic Sea and the Kattegat, over 30% of all marine Natura 2000 sites lack any form of management, and fisheries are hardly ever addressed making those sites protected only on paper. Similarly, fishing management measures are absent in the 43 Balearic Islands sites, which represent 20% of the Spanish network in Mediterranean waters. More generally, the level of protection across all types of European marine protected areas (MPAs) is too low to be effective: less than 0.5% are designated as ‘marine reserves’ with no extractive activities.

2000 is a European network of marine and terrestrial sites created 25 years ago that covers around 4% of EU seas and is designed to protect species and habitats of Community Interest, such as bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead turtles, seagrass meadows and reefs.

One of the main obstacles identified this week is the difficulty of coordinating efforts between fisheries and environmental administrations. Management of Natura 2000 sites involves both environmental rules under the Habitats Directive and fisheries rules under the Common Fisheries Policy. Both aspects must be managed in tandem to ensure that fishing does not harm protected species and habitats, yet the mechanisms for this coordination are often lacking and decisions are too often driven by short-term economic interests.

“The laws are clear, scientific knowledge is increasing, and good practices exist; what is lacking is political will. We cannot afford to further postpone actions and must tackle the most damaging fishing gears urgently, such as bottom trawling and dredging,” added Ricardo Aguilar, research director for Oceana in Europe.

Why are fishing activities so difficult to manage in Natura 2000 areas? The Balearic Islands as a case study