The global level
In 2016 the European Commission and the EU’s High Representative specified 50 actions in a joint communication: International Ocean Governance: an agenda for the future of our oceans. This communication is a part of the EU’s reaction to the Paris Agreement, and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 14 ‘to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’.
In 2020 the Commission launched the International Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum). This is a platform that enables stakeholders from within and outside of the EU to share knowledge, experience, and best practices. One of the many projects that fall under the IOG Forum is the EU4Ocean Coalition that aims to improve Ocean Literacy and wants to enhance the awareness of organisations, projects and people with a bottom-up approach.
The European level
On an EU level, there are different policies at work for the marine environment. The Habitat Directive (1992) and Birds Directive (1979) both aim to protect species that are threatened. Together they create the Natura 2000 Network, which is designated and managed by the Member States. Natura2000 makes up approximately 70% of the MPAs.
Coastal activities used to be dealt with separately until in 2013 the Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management was proposed. It deals with MSP as well as with the coastal zones of Europe, which ask for extra attention because of their high productivity. Coastal zones offer hotspots for biodiversity and are often spawning areas for (commercially) important species. At the same time, they are subject to many human activities such as industry, aquaculture and fisheries which put high pressure on the area.
Apart from these overarching Directives, some separate policies focus on specific topics. All aspects of fisheries are covered in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (2013), and the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (2000) regulates the river basins, which for instance means the input of nutrients and pollutants.
Another relevant Directive that falls under the Green Deal is the revised Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy (2021), This is relevant for MPAs as offshore energy production influences biodiversity in multiple ways. The Strategy aims to minimise construction impacts and find synergies where possible. Next to this, the Farm to Fork Strategy (2021), which plays a role in the implementation of the Green Deal, sets its sight to making food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Aquaculture, the farming of seafood, is integrated into this Strategy (albeit not very explicitly mentioned). The European Parliament emphasised the need for an ecosystem-based approach that would bring fish populations to sustainable levels and restore marine and coastal ecosystems. Also, it stresses the respect for MPAs when allocating space to marine stakeholders. Finally, different Climate Change Actions within the Green Deal include all sectors, and thus the oceans.