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. 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.
On 21 February 2023 the Commission adopted a new action plan on protecting and restoring marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries. The action plan contributes to delivering on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and its commitment to legally and effectively protect 30% of our seas, with one third being strictly protected. To fulfill this goal, the Commission calls on Member States to take fisheries conservation measures to protect and manage marine protected areas (MPAs) effectively, with a clear timeline. These efforts should include the protection of fish spawning and nursery areas, the reduction of fish mortality rates and the restoration of core areas for sensitive species and habitats.
Another objective of the plan is to reduce the impact of fishing on the seabed. Urgent protection and restoration of seabed habitats in MPAs is critical, given their significance as hotspots of EU marine biodiversity. The Commission, therefore, calls on Member States to propose joint recommendations and take national measures to phase out mobile bottom fishing in all MPAs by 2030 at the latest and not to allow it in any newly established MPAs.
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 Directivepurposes. 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||DK (initiating Member State), DE, SE.||North Sea|
|13/03/2015||DK (initiating Member State), DE, SE.||Baltic Sea|
|10/06/2016||SE (initiating Member State), DK, DE.||North Sea|
|16/11/2016||DK (initiating Member State), DE, SE.||North Sea|
|30/11/2016||DK (initiating Member State), DE, PL, SE.||Baltic Sea|
|28/02/2017||BE (initiating Member State), DK, DE, FR, NL, UK.||North Sea|
|04/02/2019||DE (initiating Member State), BE, DK, FR, NL, SE, UK.||North Sea||Update in 2021|
|09/07/2019 (4 joint recommendations)||NL (initiating Member State), BE, DK DE, FR, SE, UK.||North Sea||Update in 2021|
|02/02/2021||DK (initiating Member State), DE, SE.||North Sea|
|02/02/2021||SE (initiating Member State), DE, DK.||North Sea|
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