The North Sea: from wild nature to a managed underwater mosaic landscape?
Added on 2011-03-21 16:21:43
The North Sea has fundamentally changed. Big tuna fish and biologically rich seafloors including native oyster banks have largely disappeared during the last centuries and made room for all kind of human activities (fisheries, shipping, sand and gravel extraction, pollution, etc.) and for highly impacted underwater landscapes. However, the tide seems to be turning and at present about 5.4% of the North Sea is designated as a marine protected area (MPA). From early experience with these MPAs and with the newly installed management regulations that are being prepared in most of the North Sea countries, it appears how crucial scientific knowledge is in monitoring and underpinning a successful management. During the symposium “The North Sea, field lab for marine protection” (Leuven, Belgium, 22 March 2011), an overview of the current state of MPA’s and these research actions will be the central topics.
Designation of marine protected areas
The designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) fits within the rather new concept of “marine spatial planning”. It is widely recognized that MPAs are one of the most effective tools to restore marine biodiversity and habitats and to safeguard them from harmful impacts. From a recent analysis by OSPAR (www.ospar.org), the North Sea appears to be rather well protected (5.4% is MPA) and to do better than the Mediterranean (4%), the Celtic Sea (3.5%), the Black Sea (2.4%) or the Gulf of Biscay and Iberian coasts (0.5%). This compares to an area of 2.58 km2 or 0.65% of the total global ocean surface, protected within the 5000 MPAs worldwide (for comparison, on land: 12%).
On the other hand, these figures run behind what is internationally agreed. At the biodiversity summit in Nagoya (2010) the target figure of 10% of marine protected nature in 2020 has been decided upon, after a former target (2004) - to have a coherent and ecologically representative system of MPAs in place by 2012 - failed.
A proper management of MPAs requires research and monitoring
Everything starts with good research, leading towards the designation of a representative sample of vulnerable habitats. However, it’s the actual management and conservation measures that determine the final success of the protection. Marine protected areas where all human activities are still allowed, are no more than “paper parks”. At a global scale, only 0.08% of the world’s oceans (or 15% of all MPAs) are considered as no-take zones, i.e. areas where exploitation of living and non living resources is not allowed.
From a policy point of view, time presses for the North Sea countries. The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) states that a ‘Good Environmental Status’ should be reached by 2020 and that during 2012 all coastal member states need to be active with regard to MPAs design/management measures. These measures need to be evaluated and adjusted, making use of well-planned monitoring and dedicated research. Within the complex and changing marine environment, an approach should be promoted across sectors and between countries, that ends up in a coherent network of marine protected areas.
At the symposium, experts from different North Sea countries will give an overview of the state of MPAs in their part of the North Sea and of the scientific efforts to underpin this policy. They will identify the gaps, needs and opportunities related to the use of scientific data and knowledge in implementing MPAs on a regional scale.
The symposium aims at European scientists, managers, NGO representatives and policy makers. It is a cooperation between five Belgian institutes (UGent, K.U.Leuven, MUMM, INBO and VLIZ), one Dutch institute (NIOO-CEMO), Belgian Science Policy and the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation.
It will gain from the know-how of successful practitioners and scientists in other North Sea countries, and feed into on-going work of the Marine Board-ESF Working Group on Marine Protected Areas.
Date: Tuesday 22 March 2011 from 9:30 – 17:00 h
Location: K.U.Leuven, Auditorium Zeger Van Hee, College De Valk, Tiensestraat 41, Leuven, Belgium
Dr. Jan Seys
Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)
Wandelaarkaai 7, B-8400 Oostende, Belgium
Phone office Ostend: +32 (0)59 34 21 30
Mobile: +32 (0)478 37 64 13
Prof. Filip Volckaert
Catholic University Leuven, Laboratory of Animal Diversity and Systematics
Ch. Deberiotstraat 32, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
Phone: +32 (0)16 32 39 66 of +32 (0)16 32 39 72
Mr. Aurélien Carbonnière
Marine Board – European Science Foundation
Wandelaarkaai 7/68, B-8400 Oostende, Belgium
Phone office Ostende: +32 (0)59 34 01 56
Mobile: +32 (0)476 56 08 41