The shortage of Marine Wilderness in Europe

The number of Marine Protected Areas significantly increased in the last years. The experience shows that

  • very general and globally applicable IUCN guidelines on Wilderness provide a wide flexibility on the interpretation of the IUCN Marine Wilderness Quality Standard, and
  • very limited number of the newly designated Marine Protected Areas has an ambition to meet European Marine Wilderness Quality Standard.

True Marine Wilderness, for example in North and Baltic Seas, remains still extremely rare.

Please also read: Wilderness in Marine Protected Areas and European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System

A closer look on Marine Protected Areas in Germany

In September 2017, Germany approved six ordinances on the protection of the marine environment in the North and Baltic Seas. This ensures legal protection under national legislation of several Marine Protected Areas in the North Sea and three in the Baltic Sea. The sites are located in the seas’ Exclusive Economic Zones. This makes them a responsibility of the German federal government. An Exclusive Economic Zones is the area just beyond the 12 nautical mile-wide territorial sea. The new protected areas cover approximately 30 percent of the German Exclusive Economic Zones.

New provisions control the number of activities. Hence, the government no longer permits introduction of dredging waste in the Marine Protected Areas. Neither does it allow to operate aquacultures or to create artificial islands. If anyone wants to generate energy, exploit natural resources or lay submarine cables in the area, they have to implement an impact assessment first. The assessment has to prove that the project will not have considerable adverse effects on the marine environment.

However, recreational fishing is still possible in approximately 80 percent of the total area. Consequently, the nature conservation provisions regulate only 20 percent of the area.

The new conservation provisions improve situation significantly but to protect European Marine Wilderness more needs to be done. We urgently need clear agreements where Wilderness is in these new areas. One way to clarify this, is by performing a Wilderness Audit. Otherwise the situation will stay very unclear, and will ultimately not bring expected benefit.

said Vlado Vancura Deputy Chairman, European Wilderness Society.

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