Oceana fears current marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea will not deliver real conservation

Press Release Date: October 5, 2015

Location: Madrid


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

Today, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published its Marine Protected Areas in Europe’s Seas report. Oceana welcomes the release of this research, the first ever assessment of the entire EU network of marine protected areas (MPAs), which shows that the Baltic Sea is only one of three European regions (along with the Greater North Sea and the Western Mediterranean) to reach the international 10% target with 13.5% of its waters labelled as ‘protected’. However, Oceana calls on Baltic Sea countries to address major shortcomings that prevent this network from being effective: too few sites (particularly in offshore waters), which are too small, and are poorly managed. An accompanying policy communication released by the European Commission further emphasises the insufficiency of the network.

“Nine out of ten Baltic Sea sites are smaller than the scientifically recommended minimum size of 100 km2 and many are paper parks with no real protection. If Baltic Sea countries only half-heartedly invest in marine conservation, they will fail to deliver the ecological and economic benefits a well-designed and well-managed network of MPAs can provide,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Only healthy and resilient ecosystems can help us cope with threats such as climate change and biodiversity loss”.

Alarming lack of cohesion

The EEA’s report shows that the Baltic network severely lacks coherency. For example, most protected areas are nearshore or coastal, while the protection of offshore, deeper habitats and species is noticeably lacking, leaving a wide array of deepwater habitats and species without protection, and compromising environmental interconnections between inshore and offshore areas. In the Baltic Sea, less than 4% of offshore areas are protected.

Poor management and inadequate information

Oceana deeply regrets the failure to consider MPA management within the EEA assessment, which seriously limits the reliability of any conclusions about the effectiveness of the network. Information about management measures in MPAs is notoriously scarce, largely because such measures are often lacking, particularly in relation to fishing inside MPA boundaries. In the Baltic Sea some countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, have recognised the need to address this issue and have taken action to develop such measures. Oceana encourages other EU Member States to follow this lead.

“The European Commission must stop its head-in-the-sand policy on marine site management, and begin to seriously tackle the pervasive, ongoing lack of management of European MPAs. Member States that do not comply with requirements for meaningful protection should be held legally accountable for their negligence,” adds Gustavsson.

Photo album: Marine Protected Areas in the EU