Four countries block protection of underwater forests in European Atlantic waters
Press Release Date: March 14, 2017
Location: Madrid, Spain
Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland and the European Commission have strongly opposed the inclusion of kelp forests in the OSPAR List of Threatened and or Declining Species and Habitats. Oceana, who have worked jointly with supportive countries for over two years on proposals to protect kelp, is extremely disappointed that political reasons continue obstructing OSPAR’s ability to tackle the impacts of climate change on Atlantic marine biodiversity. Climate change puts underwater forests at risk of extinction, particularly in southern Europe.
Not one single species or habitat has been added to the list for nine years which was another reason Oceana took on the responsibility of preparing proposals to add kelp forests and haploops communities to the OSPAR list. By refuting science – in particular the threat of climate change to kelp forests – these countries showed no cooperative spirit, only a political agenda to do nothing.
“OSPAR has lost its purpose. 15 governments and the EU do absolutely nothing to fulfill its mission – to protect the marine environment of the North East Atlantic. The Convention is stuck in endless discussions about texts which can only be understood as a way for Contracting Parties to block action. It is time for OSPAR to get real. More talking won’t halt the dramatic biodiversity loss to our oceans”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.
Some supportive countries, in particular France and the Netherlands, have agreed to take over the proposals to find a compromise in 2018. Oceana is grateful for this and hope political games will not undermine the scientific rational for protecting these sensitive marine ecosystems.
Kelps are an important foundation species that provide food and shelter for numerous fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals. They are particularly effective nursery grounds for juveniles, sustaining many key and commercially important species by providing shelter from predation (e.g., Atlantic cod and pollock). Kelp forests are regarded as one of the most productive habitats on the planet but they are highly sensitive to water quality changes resulting from pollution, eutrophication and sedimentation.
A general, dominant decreasing tendency in kelp forest distribution and abundance has been documented across Europe. A significant proportion of kelp forests is found within OSPAR waters, but this is expected to change for some types of kelp forest; in particular, Laminaria species are expected to shift poleward and to deeper waters as a result of climate change, bringing potentially strong regional effects on the diversity and structure of benthic communities.
Learn more: Oceana in OSPAR