Oceana applauds the recent addition of important marine areas to the European Natura 2000 Network. This important step towards correcting the precarious situation of European seas is a significant advance for Danish, French and Spanish waters, but there is still much work to be done. With a surface area of over 9 million km² divided between 22 coastal Member States, the EU’s marine surface area is barely protected and less than 1.5% is included in the network.
This percentage is too low, especially given that the UN established a global requirement to protect 10% of the world’s eco-regions by 2020, within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The most important conservation organizations recommend increasing this percentage to 20-30% in order to be truly effective.
During 2009 and 2010, the Natura 2000 Network was evaluated in each one of the European marine regions - Atlantic, Mediterranean, Macaronesian, Black Sea and the Baltic. The results clearly showed that with few exceptions, Member States are not complying with the Habitats Directive, nearly 19 years after it came into effect.
“The recent designation of large marine protected areas by France, Spain and Denmark proves that Member States seem to be doing their homework after the EU blatantly failed them in the protection of marine species and habitats listed in the Habitats Directive for conservation, including reefs, sand banks, sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins. These and other species and habitats require protection and governments must prove their capacity to comply with their obligations by designating new marine protected areas,” states Ricardo Aguilar, director of research at Oceana Europe.
Both the areas mentioned above and others studied by Oceana in Spain and other countries have proven to be important areas for biodiversity and in many cases are still in good condition, despite the serious negative effects of human activities, including overfishing, oil drilling and exploitation, maritime traffic and aggressive coastal development.