Oceana: Dire state of ‘protected’ European marine environment underscores need for management

Press Release Date: May 20, 2015

Location: Madrid


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

Today, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published its State of Nature report, a six-year assessment of the conservation status of threatened European habitats and species protected under the Natura 2000 network, the world’s largest network of nature conservation areas. Oceana warns that most EU marine species and habitats within the Natura 2000 network remain in poor or unknown condition, and calls upon Member States to fulfil their management obligations to prevent the disappearance of biodiversity.

“Weak or non-existent management is the primary reason why most marine Natura 2000 sites are not yet delivering conservation results for Europe’s marine heritage. For instance, most are entirely lacking fisheries regulations, even though fisheries are recognised as the major threat inside these areas,” stated Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe. “By failing to properly manage sites, or monitor their effects on threatened species and habitats, Member States are blocking their own efforts from succeeding.”

Based on information reported by Member States, the 2015 State of Nature in the EU report provides an overview of the conservation status, trends, and main threats facing Natura 2000-protected species and habitats over the period 2007-2012. Although relatively few marine features are included in this group, Oceana is particularly concerned that:

  • None of the marine habitats assessed in the Atlantic, Baltic or Mediterranean regions are considered to be in good condition.
  • In the Atlantic, 71% of marine habitats are considered to be in unfavourable status.
  • In the Baltic, the status of 86% of marine habitats and 80% of marine species is unfavourable.
  • In the Mediterranean, 62% of marine habitats are of unfavourable status, as are 56% of marine species.
  • The status of many marine species remains unknown, especially in continental shelf ecosystems (54%) and open ocean ecosystems (83%).

“The marine Natura 2000 network needs to be developed better, faster, and stronger, because when properly implemented, protected areas bring proven benefits to marine ecosystems. This requires adequate funding, and the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund can offer such funds to support Natura 2000. Member States need to seize that opportunity as it is truly an investment in nature for future generations.” added Ricardo Aguilar, research director for Oceana in Europe.

The Natura 2000 network was historically created for terrestrial nature conservation, but has gradually been developed at sea since 2008, when the first fully marine sites were designated. Currently the network covers roughly 4% of EU waters versus 18% of land surface. These sites are also pivotal to Member States’ plans to achieve Good Environmental Status for the marine environment by 2020 under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, a centerpiece of EU marine legislation.