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Oceans and fisheries

Marine biodiversity objectives

The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a long-term plan for protecting nature and reversing the degradation of ecosystems.

The seas are the source of life itself, and a majority of living organism call the oceans home. Meanwhile, marine biodiversity has been under growing pressure from human activity for decades.

Better protection of marine ecosystems brings substantial health, social and economic benefits to coastal communities and the EU as a whole. Studies on marine systems estimate that every euro invested in marine protected areas generates a return of at least €3. The need for action is even more acute as marine and coastal ecosystem biodiversity loss is severely exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.

Against this background, the EU Biodiversity Strategy sets out that 30% of the EU’s sea should be protected by 2030 (+19% compared to 2020). And whereas only 1% of EU marine areas are strictly protected today, at least one third of protected areas (or 10%) should be strictly protected in the future.

Healthy fish stocks are key to the long-term prosperity of fishermen and the health of our oceans and biodiversity. An ecosystem-based management approach will gradually reduce the adverse impacts of fishing, extraction and other human activities, especially on sensitive species and seabed habitats. To this end, the Commission will also propose a new action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems by 2021. Where necessary, measures will be introduced to limit the use of fishing gear most harmful to biodiversity. This will be done in a fair and just way for all, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will support the transition to more selective and less damaging fishing techniques.

Together with Member States and international partners, the EU is also leading efforts to promote marine protection worldwide. This includes the creation of new Antarctic MPAs, as key deliverables under the EU International Ocean Agenda and the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030.

Regionalisation and recommendations from EU countries

The current common fisheries policy has strong environmental dimension and contains a number of tools that EU countries can use to fulfil their obligations under the EU environmental laws.

EU countries can

  • agree on conservation measures linked to fisheries in the Natura 2000 sites (under Art. 11 of Regulation 1380/2013)
  • establish fish stock recovery areas (under Art. 8 of the same regulation)

Under the regionalisation mechanism (as defined in Art. 18 of Regulation 1380/2013), affected countries may, after consultation of the relevant Advisory Councils, submit joint recommendations as regards the fisheries conservation measures deemed necessary to achieve those environmental objectives. The Commission can then adopt rules on the basis of those recommendations, effectively turning them into binding EU law.

After consulting with EU countries and stakeholders, the Commission adopted a staff working document on the establishment of conservation measures under the common fisheries policy for Natura 2000 sites and for Marine Strategy Framework Directive purposes. This guidance document establishes fishery management measures under Article 11 of the CFP regulation.

Received joint recommendations

Date EU countries having direct management interest Sea basin
13/03/2015 DE, DK, SE North Sea
13/03/2015 DE, DK, SE Baltic Sea
10/06/2016 DE, DK, SE North Sea
16/11/2016 DE, DK, SE North Sea
30/11/2016 DE, DK, SE, PL Baltic Sea
28/02/2017 BE, DE, DK, FR, NL, UK North Sea


Commission staff working document on the establishment of conservation measures under the common fisheries policy
(294.31 KB - PDF)

Commission delegated regulation establishing fisheries conservation measures in the Baltic Sea

Commission delegated regulation establishing fisheries conservation measures in the North Sea

High-level meeting on the designation of Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean 28 April 2021, Ministerial Joint Declaration
(321.25 KB - PDF)


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