European Union countries are failing to look after marine protected areas, putting some of the region's most threatened habitats and species at risk, according to a group of leading environmental NGOs.
Organisations including Oceana, WWF and Seas at Risk warned on Tuesday that pledges on paper to protect sites in the Natura 2000 — a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species — were not being fulfilled.
“In reality, marine life in much of these areas is under increasing threat, due to a lack of management, monitoring and financing of conservation efforts,” the NGOs said in a statement.
The group warned that EU member states are now in danger of breaking their commitments to improve marine conservation by 2020.
They urged European leaders to take “urgent political action” to improve the situation, including better managing these areas and stopping human activities that continue to harm them.
“We need to move from the virtual world to the real one. Theoretically protected areas do nothing to preserve European seas from actual problems such as the loss of biodiversity, the destruction of marine habitats and overfishing,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of marine conservation group Oceana Europe.
The warning came as EU countries gathered in Mallorca for the second EU-wide marine seminar, in which leaders are discussing ways to guarantee the conservation of sites protected under the Natura 2000 network.