Marine biodiversity conservation in Europe overseas
Many of the 30+ overseas territories of the European Union are islands and much of their biodiversity occurs in the seas and the oceans surrounding them. A recent workshop under the European Parliament Intergroup on “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development” organized jointly with IUCN addressed the challenges of Europe overseas in protecting their marine biodiversity.
Armando Astudillo Gonzalez, Adviser at the European Commission in the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, pointed out that, since most overseas entities are islands, they have a strong maritime vocation and, as a consequence, the protection of marine biodiversity becomes vital for them. As fisheries are considered among the principal threats for marine biodiversity, it is appropriate to discuss how fisheries policies take into account biodiversity protection. The ongoing reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has as principal goal to give priority to environmental protection, and consequently to biodiversity. Its basic premise is that only healthy marine ecosystems can give support to a healthy and sustainable fishing sector.
Olivier Laroussinie, Director of the Marine Protected Areas Agency in France, stated that 97% of French waters are in outermost regions and overseas countries and territories, as French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, Mayotte, and French Polynesia. Together with Caroline Vieux, in charge of a study on Europe overseas territories at the Marine Protected Areas Agency and Carole Martinez, Programme Coordinator EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories at IUCN, they presented a study entitled “How does the EU support marine biodiversity conservation in its Outermost regions, Overseas Countries and Territories?”.
“Overseas Marine issues are critical and strategic for the European Union. Thanks to Europe overseas, the EU has the first marine domain of the world nested in all the oceans of the Blue Planet,” they argued. The Blue Growth Communication and the Limassol Declaration underline the overseas ‘assets’ as strategic ‘gateways’. The speakers called for more coherence of European policies and for greater adaptedness of EU funds for biodiversity in EU overseas waters. “We have to develop a long-term marine protection strategy for Europe overseas and an enabling funding instrument that would support local marine conservation projects, regional collaboration and research, such as recommended in 2008 at La Réunion Conference. This instrument would be inspired from the BEST Preparatory Action, which is currently the most adapted tool to address marine biodiversity issues in Europe overseas,” concluded both Carole Martinez and Caroline Vieux.
“Fishermen have to be considered as experts of biodiversity. We have to understand biodiversity before trying to protect it,” said Nicolas Diaz, Secretary General, National Committee of Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (CRPMEM). The citizens of Guadeloupe live exclusively on their island’s biodiversity, he argued. According to him, the first cause of biodiversity loss is global warming, not fishermen. Furthermore, he called for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy that would be geared towards the promotion of sustainable fisheries overseas: “95% of French marine biodiversity is in the overseas; yet, 95% of the funds are allocated to Metropolitan French sea.”
The call for taking further into account of overseas territories specificities in the reform was also echoed by Thomas Binet, Research fellow at the Centre for the Economics and Management of Aquatic Resources (CEMARE), who stressed on the fact that outermost regions and overseas countries and territories do not apply to the same Community rules.
H.S.C. Cedrick Tilma, Representative of the Government of Aruba to the EU, concluded by saying that “Effective action in the biodiversity rich overseas countries and territories is vital to EU’s credibility in the international arena.”
Karin Zaunberger, Policy Officer at the European Commission Directorate-General for the Environment, informed the audience about four BEST projects relevant to marine biodiversity conservation in Europe overseas situated in three oceans – the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean and the South Pacific: CARIPES, CORAIL, MIROMEN and PACIOCEA.
The workshop “Marine biodiversity conservation in EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories” was held on Monday 3 December 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels. It was organised by the Secretariat of the European Parliament Intergroup “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development” run jointly by IUCN Member European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD) and IUCN and hosted by MEP Maurice Ponga, co-Chair of the “Islands and Overseas Entities” working group of the Intergroup. It welcomed a large panel of speakers, as well as MEP Maria Do Ceu Patrao Neves, several MEP assistants, representatives from four European Commission Directorate-Generals (Environment, Regional Policy, Maritime Affairs and Development Cooperation), alongside Permanent Representations and Embassy representatives, researchers and stakeholders.