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Acknowledgements Wetlands
Scans II (Atlantic)
Marine IBAs (Iberia)
Marine SACs (UK)
Monk seals (Greece)
Cetaceans (Spain)  


The seas that surround the European Union are amongst the richest and most productive in the world. They are also amongst the most threatened. Threats include loss and degradation of biodiversity and changes in its structure, loss of habitats, contamination by dangerous substances and nutrients and possible future effects of climate change.

The related pressures include: commercial fishing, oil and gas exploitation, shipping, eutrophication, waste dumping, tourism and aggregate extraction…. which are further exacerbated by the very sectoral approach to management and the complex legal responsibilities.

The European Commission has recent proposed an ambitious strategy to protect the marine environment across Europe. The Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment aims to achieve good environmental status of the EU's marine waters by 2021 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend.

Natura 2000

The annexes to the Habitats and Birds directives list nine habitat types, 29 seabirds and 18 other marine animals in need of protection in view of their precarious conservation state. These include such well known species as the Mediterranean monk seal, the loggerhead sea turtle, the bottlenose dolphins as well as rare habitats like cold water reefs and posidonia beds (underwater prairies)

Implementing the Habitats and Birds Directives in the marine environment presents some substantial challenges, especially as regards the offshore environment, due to the difficulties in obtaining scientific knowledge on distribution/abundance of species and habitats. So whilst the designation of Natura 2000 sites in coastal and inshore waters is considered to be fairly advanced there are still important gaps in the network as regards the offshore marine environment.

Many conservation actions are focusing first and foremost on building a sound knowledge base on marine species and habitats in order to be able to develop appropriate conservation measures to protect them and ensure their sustainable use. Equally important is the close collaboration and dialogue with the wide range of interest groups operating in European waters. In an area that is so difficult to patrol, their cooperation is paramount to the success of conservation measures proposed.

Good practice examples

The following are some examples of strategic surveys and management planning processes that are underway for Natura 2000 sites in the marine environment:

1. Surveying small cetaceans in European Atlantic and North Sea (SCANS II)
2. Identifying marine IBAs in Spanish and Portuguese offshore waters
3. Development marine SAC management plans in the UK
4.Conservation of monk seals in Greece
5. Stakeholder dialogue in Spanish waters

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