EU Overseas - marine conservation champions already protect 33% of their seas and coasts

EU Overseas are leading the way towards reaching global marine conservation goals

Photo: GMPP

The 25 European Union (EU) Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and 9 Outermost Regions (ORs) are among the most precious assets to their six Member States not only for their rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems, but also for their vast marine areas, totalling over 19 million km2 and their strategic location in all the major oceans. Moreover, with a total of 6.5 million km2 (33%), the EU Overseas have already surpassed Aichi Target 11 and the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) of protecting at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. The area under protection is almost twice as big as that in the national waters surrounding the six Member States: France, the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Denmark. Increasing more than six times since 2010 and nearly doubling during the past two years, the area under protection could surpass 60% by 2020 following recent announcements of protection plans.

At present, 10 of the 34 EU Overseas entities protect more than 10% of their waters under national jurisdiction by extending protection to the limits of their exclusive economic zones. Moreover, six of the 10 largest protected areas on the planet reside in the EU Overseas waters. While these bigger marine protected areas (MPAs) contribute to almost 95% of the protection, the majority of the 350 MPAs in the EU Overseas are smaller and located in coastal waters, largely due to a lack of data from pelagic and deep sea ecosystems, as well as limited capacity to manage and enforce larger MPAs covering coastal and offshore areas.

Marine and coastal conservation efforts in the EU Overseas

However, a qualitative assessment of the marine and coastal conservation efforts of the EU Overseas showed that large MPAs, covering both coastal and offshore areas, are the most effective, provided they are well managed. This assessment is part of an IUCN review, which presents the first overview of marine and coastal conservation efforts in the EU Overseas, including geographic coverage, management, representativeness, resilience against invasive alien species, climate change and anthropogenic pressures as well as progress towards the achievement of international conservation objectives such as those of the Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) on Oceans. The main findings (available to download at the top of this page) were presented at the UN Ocean Conference on the 9th of June 2017 and the full review will be released at the IMPAC4 in September 2017 in Chile.

Governing over 5% of the earth’s ocean surface (twice as much as the US waters) and contributing to one third of the global marine protection efforts it is evident that the EU Overseas are champions in marine conservation and key players for global ocean governance.

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