The EU biodiversity strategy: last call to save Europe's nature, seas and rivers

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02 Jun

On the 20th of May, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 before the European Parliament. The Strategy is an integral part of the European Green Deal unveiled last year. The Biodiversity Strategy is of direct concern for the angling community as it deals with topics like protection of marine areas, restoration of freshwater ecosystems, reduction of pollution and many others.

The Biodiversity Strategy lists several initiatives and proposals whose main objective is to ensure that “Europe’s biodiversity will be on the path to recovery by 2030”. Beyond 2030, the Strategy aims to ensure that “by 2050 all of the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient and adequately protected”. This new Strategy was expected with interest as the EU’s previous biodiversity strategies failed to counter biodiversity loss and reach their goals, including the 2010 and 2020 biodiversity targets.

Legally protecting 30% of EU’s land and EU’s sea

That is why the EU wants to use the Strategy to lead the world by example and to be a key actor of the upcoming 15th COP on biodiversity in Kunming, China, in October 2020. As the Biodiversity strategy is not a legislative text but a list of objectives and future proposals and initiatives, citizens and stakeholders have a key role to play in the public consultations that will be opened for every chapter of the strategy, in order to make sure that it translates in concrete measures in the field and tangible results in the future.
In the field of nature protection, the EU aims to legally protect 30% of EU’s sea area, representing an extra 19% in comparison with the current situation. A third of these protected areas will benefit from even stricter protection. Connections between protected areas will be strengthened thanks to ecological corridors as part of a Trans-European Nature Network. The Strategy sets to agree with Member States, before 2022, which criteria and guidance will be used to protect these new areas. Then, the European Commission will assess in 2024 if Member States are on the right track regarding progress in designating new protected areas and integrating ecological corridors by law.

Restoring 25,000 km of river

The Biodiversity Strategy also includes a new EU Nature Restoration Plan. It will include legally binding targets too to be presented in 2021. It also aims to ensure that protected habitats and species do not see their conservation trends being deteriorated. This chapter particularly addresses the issue of marine and freshwater ecosystems. One shall note that hydropower is not mentioned when it comes to the list of prioritized solutions for renewable sources of energy, which was one of the concerns when looking at the Green Deal overall. Even more positively, the strategy sets an objective of at least 25,000 km of rivers that should be restored as free-flowing rivers by 2030. It indicates that barriers preventing fish migration should be removed or adjusted.

Pollution will also be addressed with an upcoming Zero Pollution Action Plan for Air, Water and Soil which will include legally binding reduction target of the use of fertilisers. The Strategy also refers to the fight against invasive alien species with aiming at reducing by 50% the number of Red List species threatened by these invasive alien species.

Finally, the Strategy should further the full implementation of the current EU environmental legislations. The implementation of EU’s legal framework on water is lagging behind and enforcement must be stepped up. “Greater efforts are needed to restore freshwater ecosystems and the natural functions of rivers in order to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive,” it is said. EAA alone and with other NGOs will keep pushing that full implementation and proper enforcement will happen sooner rather than later.

Reducing the negative impact of fisheries and other human activities

When it comes to a sustainable management of fish resources, the Strategy wants to reduce the negative impact of fishing and extraction activities on sensitive species and habitats. Reducing by-catches of species to a level that allows species to recover is also mentioned in the Strategy.

The evaluation of the impact of anyone’s actions on biodiversity and environment and the evaluation of the results of the strategy itself is another key aspect. Progress assessment and review of a set of agreed indicators will be undertaken on a regular basis. And notably by supporting the establishment of an international natural capital accounting initiative, the European Commission wants to create better tools to evaluate the environmental footprint of products and organisations.

As daily observers of nature and biodiversity, anglers are very much concerned by the Biodiversity Strategy and EAA will keep a close eye at its roll out. Restoring natural areas and free-flowing rivers, managing natural resources in a sustainable way and tackling pollution of water bodies are some of their primary concerns.
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