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EU set to miss goals on sea protection and sustainable fishing - European Court of Auditors

26 November 2020
by WWF -- last modified 26 November 2020

Special report shows EU actions to safeguard marine ecosystems and biodiversity lack effective implementation


EU Member States have not done enough to restore European seas, a report released today by the European Court of Auditors finds. While an EU framework to protect the marine environment is in place, actions at national level have been insufficient to restore European seas to Good Environmental Status — the main goal of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, whose deadline for achievement is this year. Further, fishing is not occurring within sustainable limits across all EU seas, the report shows; in January 2020, the EU missed its own deadline to fish sustainably in its waters, as set in the Common Fisheries Policy.

The ECA's assessment is supported by evidence in the European Environment Agency's (EEA) 2015 State of Nature report, and further corroborated by the EEA's latest analysis published earlier this year, which found fish species are faring worse than all others, with 38% in 'bad' conservation status.

Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at the WWF European Policy Office said, "Today's report makes it clear that full implementation of existing EU legislation, consistently across all Member States, is urgently needed. Ineffective integration and poor implementation of the Birds Directive, Habitats Directive, Common Fisheries Policy and Marine Strategy Framework Directive has left these tools untouched in the box or poorly used. The action plan that is part of the Biodiversity Strategy and due in 2021 must include binding targets and concrete measures, including financial measures, to support Member States in speeding up the transition to sustainable fishing and restoration of marine ecosystems."

The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy aims to have the EU apply an ecosystem-based approach to the planning and use of its seas, and emphasises the need to be cross-sectoral and include area-based conservation measures. It entails a transition to more selective and less damaging fishing methods, underlining that bottom-contacting fishing gear is the most damaging activity to the seabed. The commitment to effectively protect and manage a minimum 30% of the EU sea area, including integrated ecological corridors and strict protection for 10% of the marine area, cannot be achieved without this more holistic approach.

The European Policy Office helps shape EU policies that impact on the European and global environment.