Oceana congratulates the Spanish government for the forthcoming declaration of four protected marine areas in the open sea. The selected areas are the Channel of Menorca, the systems of submarine canyons of the Gulf of Lion, the Bank of Galicia, and the mud volcanoes of the Gulf of Cádiz. Once approved, the Ministerial Order will be forwarded to the European Commission so that these areas will be declared as Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and will form part of the Natura 2000 network.
Oceana is one of the partners of LIFE+ INDEMARES, the project that has enabled this breakthrough in marine conservation. The network of protected areas will now include ecosystems that were barely represented. Deep sea ecosystems of submarine mountains and canyons and mud volcanoes, which host extraordinary biodiversity and are essential for the conservation of marine resources, will all benefit. Their protection is something for which Oceana has been campaigning for years, because of their ecological importance.
"Even after more than 20 years since the Habitats Directive came into force in 1992, marine ecosystems are still under-represented. The designation of new protected areas in the open sea is a big step forward and from Oceana we encourage the Government to continue along these lines to contribute to the health of our seas and meet the obligations derived from our commitments to the European Union", affirmed Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe.
The marine conservation organisation encourages the government not to close the chapter on the protection of the Spanish seas, but to continue striving to make Spain a pioneer in ensuring that its seas are well-preserved and productive, as well as complying with current legislation.
According to Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director at Oceana in Europa, "Given the current threat and because of poor management, our politicians need to act responsibly with regard to our marine environment, and more projects need to be carried out for the creation of protected marine areas, given that the current level of protection, despite recent efforts, is insufficient. The Convention on Biological Diversity requires that 10% of the sea surface be protected by the year 2020, and for this to happen other areas will have to be added to the LIFE+ INDEMARES project, such as the coastal strip bordering Doñana National Park and the area around the island of Cabrera, whose ecological value is well recognised."
Publication of this draft Order is part of the roadmap laid down by the LIFE+ INDEMARES project for improving the Natura 2000 Spanish marine network, and the results obtained after years of campaigning are of great value from a scientific point of view. It is led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and coordinated by Fundación Biodiversidad, but various research institutions, universities and environmental organisations have also participated in the project. A total of ten marine areas have been documented and before the end of the year the same process should be followed for the six remaining areas. Along with the four that are now subject to public consultation, thirty-nine SPAs (Special Protection Areas for birds) have also been proposed.