Oceana welcomes new EU Biodiversity Strategy as critical to rebuilding marine resilience and enabling a ‘blue’ future for Europe

EU countries to protect 30% of their seas, including 10% in strictly protected marine reserves

Press Release Date: May 20, 2020



Emily Fairless, Communications Officer | email: efairless@oceana.org | tel.: +32 478 038 490

Oceana welcomes the European Commission’s much expected new 10-year plan, presented today, to save biodiversity and its ambition to deliver urgent action to protect the environment – something that 90% of EU citizens support (Eurobarometer Survey). Restoring healthy, well-functioning and resilient natural ecosystems is also central to the European Green Deal and has become an even more relevant dimension of the EU policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The global response to the Covid-19 pandemic shows that governments and society have the capacity to act swiftly and decisively in the face of clear scientific evidence of serious threats to our well-being. Such determined action is also needed to safeguard our ocean and deliver more resilient seas,” said Vera Coelho, Senior Advocacy Director of Oceana in Europe. Importantly we need to make sure our policy response to the pandemic avoids exacerbating the pre-existing climate and nature crises to ensure we ‘build back better’ as a society,” added Coelho.

On marine biodiversity, the EU commits to protecting 30% of its seas by 2030, including 10% under strict protection for areas of high biodiversity value. It represents an ambitious two-fold challenge for EU Member states: to further increase the coverage of their networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)*, and to ensure effective management within them. This Strategy also outlines the EU’s ambition ahead of the global negotiations on the post-2020 biodiversity framework at the next UN Biodiversity Convention COP15.

Currently 85% of EU MPAs do not have any management in place, for instance to restrict the most destructive activities such as bottom-trawling, oil drilling or sand-dredging. They are therefore no more than “paper parks”.

We are delighted that the Strategy includes new binding MPA targets, and particularly for strictly protected areas. High protection means high benefits for nature, and no-take marine reserves are the most effective type of MPAs – but currently they only make up less than 1% of the EU network. Efforts should focus on these super-MPAs as a top priority,” stressed Nicolas Fournier, Campaign Director at Oceana in Europe.

A 2017 study1  showed that the biomass of whole fish assemblages in fully protected marine reserves is, on average, 670% greater than in adjacent unprotected areas and 343% greater than in partially-protected MPAs. Marine reserves also help restore the complexity of ecosystems through a chain of ecological effects called ‘trophic cascades’ once the abundance of large animals recovers sufficiently. To add to this, there is evidence that Highly Protected Marine Areas are more climate resilient than less protected areas.

 The European Commission also announced an Action Plan by 2021 to protect marine ecosystems and fisheries resources, outlining the need to limit the use of fishing gear most harmful to biodiversity — with particular attention to bottom-trawling —,  the imperative to maintain or reduce fishing mortality to or under Maximum Sustainable Yield levels, and the requirement to eliminate or reduce the bycatch of sensitive and threatened species.

Humanity and Nature are inextricably linked. Biodiversity is a complex web of sometimes rare and fragile species which, if disrupted, can affect our availability of food, impact livelihoods and weaken our ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The Covid-19 crisis is having a dramatic impact on people’s health and is also a reminder that biodiversity acts as barrier against the spread of diseases from wildlife to humans. By protecting our environment, we inevitably help protect mankind. 

Learn more about Oceana’s position here.

 #BiodiversityStrategy #EUbiodiversity #MPAs

*In order to reach the target of 30% of EU waters protected, the EU should collectively protect – at least an extra 19% of sea areas compared to today (11%). This extra area to protect varies according to EU Member States’ current protection, and ranges in terms of coverage of waters from 0 for those who already met the target (e.g. Germany, France, Belgium) to almost 30% in the case of Cyprus or Ireland for instance.
1. Sala, E., and Giakoumi, S. 2017. No-take marine reserves are the most effective protected areas in the ocean. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 75: 1166–1168.

Notes to the editor: Key ocean commitments under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030

  • Legally protect a minimum of 30% of the EU sea and include ‘ecological corridors’ (that allow for migration etc), to build a coherent, resilient and ecologically representative European network.
  • Strictly protect at least 10% of the existing EU protected areas at sea, covering areas of very high biodiversity value or potential.
  • Effectively manage all marine protected areas, defining clear conservation objectives and measures, and monitoring them appropriately.
  • Propose binding EU nature restoration targets in 2021 and restore significant areas of degraded and carbon-rich ecosystems at sea.
  • Ensure marine habitats and species under the Habitats and Birds Directives show no deterioration in conservation trends and status, and at least 30% of those which are not in favourable conservation status will reach this status or at least show a positive trend.
  • Adopt a new Action Plan by 2021 to protect marine ecosystems and conserve fisheries resources, namely from the negative impacts on the seabed from bottom-fishing and mineral extraction activities, to achieve Good Environmental Status.
  • Reduce the losses of nutrients from fertilisers to the environment by 50% and nitrogen use by 20%.
  • Eliminate or reduce the by-catch of populations of species threatened with extinction or in bad conservation status to a level that allows full recovery; eliminate the by-catch of populations of other species or, where not possible, minimize it, so that it does not threaten their conservation status.