Oceana urges that stopping the loss of marine species be the priority for the EU's biodiversity policy

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The Commission proposed today a new EU Biodiversity Strategy to confront growing challenges, including the fact that only 1% of European waters are protected


January 19, 2010
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( mmadina@oceana.org )




Oceana urges the European Commission (EC) and Member States to prioritize creating a broad strategy to address both the exponential loss of marine species and habitats as well as mitigate the effects of climate change such as acidification. The international marine conservation organisation is urging these measures on the occasion of the renewed EU Biodiversity Strategy, released by the EC today to achieve 2010-2020 European and international targets.

Oceana recommends a new EU Biodiversity policy based on actions and outcomes which would include the fast implementation of existing policies as well as new comprehensive targets. For example, the application of a Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network covering 20%-30% of EU seas once the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 10% target is achieved by 2012. Despite the fact that the CBD requires at least 10% of European seas to be legally protected by 2012, today less than 1% are covered with legal MPAs.

“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just launched the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity to remind the world that urgent actions are needed to prevent the irreversibility of the ongoing biodiversity losses. Oceana calls on the Commission and EU Member States to jointly work for the recovery of European marine life, which is specially urgent after the failure of Copenhagen Climate Change Conference”, says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe.

Severe ongoing shortcomings in marine biodiversity protection in EU and international waters require immediate actions as well as the implementation of an ecologically-oriented reform based on the ecosystem approach. In its recent recommendations to the Spanish Presidency, Oceana has already called for applying the greatest responsibility towards the preservation of the ecological balance of the seas and the restoration and conservation of their biological resources, as a precondition to the economic and social marine developments.

These recommendations follow the ongoing dramatic decline recorded by the 2008 Biodiversity Health Check that revealed the unfavourable status of 50% of the species and up to 80% of habitats types in Europe.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has recently published its Ten messages for 2010 dedicated to climate change and biodiversity, calling, among other things, for a shift from policy awareness to action. European marine biodiversity is presently at stake with many new species becoming vulnerable or at the verge of extinction for lack of timely and adequate actions.

A 2008 European Economic study highlighted that the ´business as usual scenario´ may lead to the loss of 60% of coral reefs by 2030 and the forthcoming emptiness of our seas since half of wild marine fisheries are already fully exploited, with a further quarter already overexploited . It is estimated that in Europe possibly 50% of the deep-sea coral reefs have already disappeared and 8 out of 10 fish stocks assessed are overexploited, furthermore, 45% of them fall outside safe biological limits.

Present practice of fishing down the marine food web is leading inevitably to the collapse of the oceans ecosystems with predicted booms of jelly fish replacing present diversity of fish. A 2006 scientific study already warned about the total collapse of worldwide commercial fisheries under the business as usual scenario by 2048. A 2009 UNEP study revealed that by 2050, the acidification of the oceans could increase by 150% –100 times faster than experienced over the last 20 million years. Unmitigated ocean acidification is estimated to cause a mass extinction of coral reefs and other calcified organisms by around middle of the century as well as the losses of the myriad of other marine species that are dependent on them for food and shelter and producing adverse effects on species such as marine mammals.

In 2006 the European Union committed to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 but it is clearly evident that existing policies have fallen short of concrete actions.

Despite in December 2009 the Council was ´alarmed by the increasing rate of biodiversity loss and the deterioration of ecosystem functions and services due to anthropogenic pressure´ and determinated to intensify policy and financial efforts for facing current unprecedented decline, the EU Member States have so far been mainly unable to implement the 1992 Habitats Directive in their marine waters, with considerable number of them still lacking or delaying implementation as a result of political compromises.

“Time is running out for EU marine biodiversity if the main EU biodiversity conservation laws (European Marine and Water Framework Directives and the Habitats Directive) would not be fully implemented very soon and more ambitious integrated actions to recover degraded habitats and species at risks be taken shortly”, says Gaia Angelini, Policy Advisor for Oceana in Europe.