Increase in marine protected areas reduces pressure on marine habitats and species
A new Commission report shows significant progress in establishing protected areas in Europe's seas, with benefits for the economy and the environment. Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the EU has committed to ensure the conservation of 10% of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. In 2012, 5.9 % of Europe's seas had already been designated as marine protected areas, and work is continuing with a view to achieve 10 % coverage by 2020. This objective is also reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Many marine species across Europe´s seas are experiencing a decrease in population size and loss of habitat. Protected areas seek to reverse this trend by safeguarding ecosystems and species and rebuilding fish stocks, as well as ensuring the delivery of important ecosystem services such as coastal protection, flood management and tourism. The Commission will continue supporting Member States to designate, manage and control marine protected areas through financing mechanisms such as the LIFE Programme and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, while promoting inclusive governance structures for and research on marine protected areas.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive reporting
The Marine Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. The Directive enshrines in a legislative framework the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities having an impact on the marine environment, integrating the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable use. In order to achieve GES by 2020, each Member State is required to develop a strategy for its marine waters (or Marine Strategy). Because the Directive follows an adaptive management approach, the Marine Strategies must be kept up-to-date and reviewed every 6 years.
For the first time, Member States have now reported under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive on the state of the environment in their marine waters, on what they consider as being a "good environmental status" and on the objectives and targets they have set themselves to reach it by 2020 (articles 8, 9 and 10 of the MSFD). The result shows that more efforts are urgently needed if the EU is to reach its goal.
The findings of the report, and the way forward, were discussed in Brussels on March 3-4 at the HOPE ("Healthy Oceans- Productive Ecosytems") conference. It gathered governments, NGOs, academia and other stakeholders working with or in relation to the European marine environment. Read more here.
Further detailed information can be retrieved here:
* By December 2013, all but a few of the Member States concerned had reported to the European Commission. Data is therefore only partially available for some Member States, and one Member State has not reported at all. The European Commission has launched infringement procedures whenever relevant. In parallel to legal action, it will consider how to communicate its assessment and guidance to the Member States not included in this report, after they have reported fully.