The ministerial order should make reference to the Mediterranean Regulation, which defines fundamental fisheries regulations affecting two of the areas protected today.
Oceana congratulates the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MAGRAMA) for the publication of the order, which approves the proposal to include four areas of the LIFE+ INDEMARES project in the list of Sites of Community Importance within the Natura 2000 Network: the western system of submarine canyons in the Gulf of Lions, the Channel of Menorca, the mud volcanoes of the Gulf of Cádiz and the Bank of Galicia. Oceana is one of the project partners and is responsible for documenting one of the ten areas which the project comprises, the seamount known as the Seco de los Olivos.
During the public participation process established for comments on the draft ministerial order, Oceana sent MAGRAMA a series of representations regarding the absence of any mention of the Mediterranean Regulation. This is fundamental European Community fisheries legislation for the protection of coralligenous and maerl habitats, which are present in two of the areas that will be incorporated into the Natura 2000 Network today, the Channel of Menorca and the western system of submarine canyons in the Gulf of Lions.
“The Mediterranean Regulation should be referred to in this ministerial order, so that there is no doubt about the government's intention to strictly protect these habitats which are essential for the fishery resources of the Mediterranean,” affirms Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Precisely in this regulation, special mention is made of the Natura 2000 sites as priority areas for implementing protection of seagrass, coralligenous and maerl beds.”
This ministerial order is the first of three through which, during 2014, a total of ten areas of the high seas and deep seabeds of the Spanish marine waters will be protected. This is the result of a project coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation which, after five years of research, has shown that the natural values of these areas justify their inclusion as part of the Natura 2000 Network. Nonetheless, Oceana remains conscious that this is only one of many steps still to be taken to achieve the good environmental condition of the marine environment, as required by the regulations.
“The declaration of Sites of Community Importance within the INDEMARES framework will be a breakthrough for the conservation of marine habitats and species of the deepest areas of the Spanish seas, increasing the protected area to 5%[i],” says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity demands 10%, and Oceana therefore proposes new areas, such as expanding the marine part of the National Parks of Cabrera and Doñana and the protection of areas such as the Balearic seamounts or the waters of El Hierro.”
[i] This percentage only includes marine protected areas that protect the water column and the seabed, so it does not include Special Protection Areas for Birds.