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News|10 Sep, 2019

A handful of Baltic countries risk failing 2020 commitments for marine biodiversity protection

“The agreement is a trailblazing success for the protection of the Baltic Sea”, notes Jochen Lamp, head of the Baltic Sea office of WWF Germany.

WWF report finds EU and Baltic countries lack effective biodiversity protection in the Baltic Sea. Less than half of designated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Baltic have management plans, rendering them unable to effectively protect biodiversity.

The Baltic Sea region has a key role to play in efforts to avoid dangerous levels of biodiversity loss. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with comprehensive management plans are crucial to address the stressors which impact biodiversity. Such areas should form a network that protects a range of habitats for biodiversity and zones of high economic value that span from the coast to deep offshore areas. This is the message of WWF’s new report on Europe’s challenges to meet the global 2020 deadlines for protecting our oceans under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“Marine Protected Areas are designed to provide special protection of specific species or habitats in marine ecosystems. In order to meet global goals for protecting our oceans by 2020, it is essential that these protected areas fulfil their purpose through comprehensive and fully implemented management plans that enable full biodiversity protection,” explains Ottilia Thoreson, Director, WWF Baltic Programme.

Unfortunately, the reality is the majority of MPAs across European waters currently lack a management plan. In the Baltic Sea, the situation is the same. Only 7% of the total 16% marine area designated as MPAs have a management plan in place. On paper, Baltic countries meet the requirements outlined in Aichi Target 11 of conserving at least 10% of coastal and marine areas. In reality, these MPAs do not effectively protect biodiversity because so few of them have robust, long-term management plans.

It is equally important to set aside MPAs as it is to consider their location and connectivity. Examining MPAs in the Baltic Sea found that they were too far apart to successfully connect habitats and species. The low representation of different habitats and connection to each other means that these areas are failing to function together as a network. Meaning, they are not fulfilling their purpose of comprehensive biodiversity protection.

“Protecting important marine habitats through effective management must be a priority for Baltic countries. Doing so is an investment in marine conservation and is essentially a down payment for the future. This will ensure resilience in the face of both climate change and overexploitation of marine resources in the remainder of the Baltic Sea,” Ottilia Thoreson, Director, WWF Baltic Programme.


Ottilia Thoreson, Director, WWF Baltic Programme
+46 8 624 74 15

Hannah Griffiths Berggren, Communications Manager, WWF Baltic Programme
+46 8 515 114 83

Information to editors:

Convention on Biological Diversity: Aichi Target 11
Target 11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.

Marine Protected Area (MPA)
According to the definition of the World Commission on Protected Areas under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN WCPA), an MPA is “a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”. (Source: IUCN WCPA, 2018. Applying IUCN’s Global Conservation Standards to Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Delivering effective conservation action through MPAs, to secure ocean & sustainable development. Version 1.0. Gland, Switzerland. 4pp.)

There are several different categories of MPAs, ranging from fully protected areas (e.g. marine reserves) to multi-use areas, however, the common denominator is that only those areas where nature conservation is the primary objective can be considered MPAs (Source: Day et al. 2012. Guidelines for applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 36pp.)

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