Marine Protected Areas & Marine N2000 Sites: from policy to (needed) responses

Published on:

What is the state of the European Marine environment? Which are the legal instruments to protected marine species and habitats? And what are the challenges for Marine Natura 2000 sites and Marine Protected Areas?

In the last EUROPARC Webinar, we’ve heard from the EU Commission about the current state of our marine environments and heard in first hand the challenges faced by Marine Natura 2000 sites in the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions.

Management Challenges in Marine Natura 2000 Sites

Fotios Papoulias, policy officer from the Nature Protection Unit at DG Environment and responsible for the implementation of the Birds and Habitats in the marine ecosystems, opened the webinar with an overview of the global conservation status of the European marine environment. The scenario is alarming: according to the European Environment Agency (download the EEA State of Nature in Europe Report 2015), about one-third of the marine species and 2 thirds of the marine habitats are in unfavourable conservation status (and for many species and habitats the status is still unknown!).

(extracted from the presentation of Fotios Papoulias, based on the European Environmental Agency – State of Nature in Europe Report 2015[/caption]

Pollution of marine waters, fishing and (unsustainable) harvesting of aquatic resources are the top two pressures on EU waters, threatening marine ecosystems, according to the European Red List of Habitats, a study commissioned by the DG ENVI in 2016.

Europe’s seas cannot be considered healthy, clean and undisturbed today, and are unlikely to become so in the future given the current trends,

mentioned Mr. Papoulias in his presentation. The protection of the marine environments is, in fact, a key pillar in many international policy frameworks, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Targets. In the EU, thanks to the establishment of Marine Natura 2000 sites, around 10% of the EU maritime area is under protection. The expansion of the Natura 2000 network (which has doubled over the past 5 years!) very much contributes to this figure.

However, there are still large EU maritime areas lacking protection, especially in offshore zones. The completion of the marine Natura 2000 network is one of the key objectives of the DG Environment, as it is stated within the EU Action plan for Nature, people and the economy. But the challenge goes beyond the establishment of new protected areas: defining conservation objectives and measures for all sites is imperative.

webinar on marine protected areas

Ballan Wrasse, Arran Coast – photo by Howard Wood

Download the full presentation of Fotios Papouila

The EU Policy framework for Marine areas

The Habitats & Birds directives are the backbone policy for the establishment of Marine Natura 2000 sites. They foresee tree main overarching objectives:

  • implementation of conservation measures
  • avoid deterioration
  • assessment of plans and projects

To address other challenges such as fisheries, spatial protection measures and maritime spatial plans, other EU legal instruments apply, the Common Fisheries Policy, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, respectively.

Finding funds and inspiration

Despite the legal frameworks, Natura 2000 managers and Marine Protected Areas often lack the financial resources to develop and implement conservation plans. Valentina Cappanera, who presented a case study from the Portofino Marine Protected Area, shared an impressive number of Italian MPAs and Natura 2000 sites that do not have management plans in place, nor funds to do it.

To overcome this barrier, Fotios Papouila advised participants to look for the many financing opportunities under the EMFF, LIFE+ and InterregThe brochure Life & the Marine Environment highlights some successful projects funded through LIFE+ and can be a good source of inspiration for your upcoming projects.

Looking ahead: challenges and responses

From food-provision to climate change mitigation or recreation opportunities, Marine Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites not only contribute to the health of our seas, they can also be a driver of socio-economic development. The European Commision has it clearly defined with the “Blue Growth Strategy”, where Coastal and maritime tourism is considered a key pillar. In fact, according to the manual Socio-Economic Benefits of the EU Marine Protected Areas,

Coastal and marine nature-based tourism employs over 3.2 million people and generates €183 billion per year in gross value added in the European Union.

Despite being a source of social and economic development, excessive tourism brings additional management challenges to Protected Areas, as was highlighted by Tom Hooper, who presented a case study from the Isles of Scilly. In 2017, EUROPARC organised a webinar to discuss tourism strategies in MPAs with two examples from the network.

webinar, marine protected areas, tourism strategies, sustainable tourism

Better tools are needed to support managers dealing with the (growing) challenges on visitor pressure and (over)fishing. To share best practice among those working for the protection of our seas, EUROPARC is collecting case studies among European MPAs and Marine Natura 2000 Sites. 

Submit your case study with the EUROPARC Federation and follow the latest news on Marine and Coastal.

Watch the full recording of the Webinar “Management Challenges in Natura 2000 Sites”

Download the Presentations

Introduction European cooperation for effective management of marine Natura 2000 network by Fotios Papoulias, Nature Protection Unit, DG Environment, European Commission

Case Study 1 Proactive management of fisheries within a Special Area of Conservation – the Isles of Scilly. Future challenges to managing a site and making good decisions in the context of relatively poor knowledge.  By Tom Hooper, Chief Fisheries and Conservation Officer for the Isles of Scilly Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA)

Case Study 2 Italian MPAs and the management of Natura 2000 – the example of Portofino MPA By Valentina Cappanera, Managing entity of the Portofino Marine Protected Area

Further references

European Commission Website: Natura 2000 in the Marine Environment

European Environmental Agency: Natura 2000 Barometer

European Commission: Blue Growth Strategy

Nature and Culture in Dialogue – The outcomes of the Seminar

Photo: German-Dutch Nature Park Maas-Schwalm-Nette

Published on:

As a celebration of the European Year for Cultural Heritage, at the beginning of the year, the EUROPARC Federation and the Interpret Europe announced a partnership focused on the role of natural heritage to explore cultural identity. 

Throughout 2018, we brought our members together to look at how interpretation can influence connection to Europe’s natural and cultural heritage. The joint work kick-started in the Siggen Seminar, where a group of EUROPARC members analyzed how to frame cultural identity within Protected Areas, and shared examples on how to approach sensitive topics that are embedded in the history of the territory. Later, during a workshop at Interpret Europe Annual Conference, their members built on the results of the Siggen Seminar.

Nature and Culture in Dialogue – The outcomes of the Seminar

To present the results of the cooperation, EUROPARC and Interpret Europe organised on the 28th November 2018 the “Nature and Culture in Dialogue”, an event kindly hosted by DG Education and Culture in the European Commission. 25 participants representing 10 nationalities, looked at different experiences and opportunities to link nature and culture against the heritage background and how to follow up after the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

EUROPARC and Interpret Europe were delighted to welcome a range of high-level speakers: Anne Grady, DG Education and Culture, Fotios Papoulias, European Commission Unit D.3 “Nature protection”, DG ENVI, Paolo Fontani, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels, Markus J. Prutsch, Senior researcher and administrator at the European Parliament, responsible for culture and education policies.

The representatives from both DGs, underlined that in total, almost half (ca 170 sites) of all World Heritage Sites in the EU are in, or within 2 km of, a Natura 2000 and 27 of the 29 natural and mixed World Heritage Sites in the EU overlap with Natura 2000 sites. In fact, the event was a first occasion to understand the importance of connecting the two DGs and how to create a new project together in the future.

Nature and Culture in Dialogue, 28th November 2018. European Commission, Brussels

Working together, for Natural and Cultural Heritage

Cultural Identity is rooted in the connection to the land. It is reflected in architecture, crafts, literature, and art and of course the food we eat. Cultural identity, however, is not always as fixed as it may seem. Interpretation can be a powerful tool to help communities appreciate their history, even if fractured by major forces such as war, translocation, politics, modern travel and connectivity.  

When we think about a Protected Area there is no better word to describe it as Synergies. The aim of the workshop was exactly to develop and stimulate this thinking that Nature and Culture are strongly related to each other. So is fundamental to see the big picture of the areas: understanding that the territory is a synthesis of many factors as natural, cultural, economic, development, integration, young generation and the old one.

Parks and Protected areas form the bedrock of much of Europe’s Cultural heritage; all are connected to the landscape and through reconnecting to nature people can understand their culture once more.

The key point was shared from all the speakers: Natural and Cultural Heritage are alive, a key driver of multiple social-economic benefits to communities, not only helping to promote rural regeneration and identity, through tourism development, product diversification, and attraction of new financial investments.

We are sure the event provoked a new mindset, where landscape and biodiversity are seen as an integrant part of our cultural identity. EUROPARC and Interpret Europe will seek to further explore this connection, and provide members of both organisations training and tools to improve interpretation in Europe’s natural and cultural sites.

Nature and Culture in Dialogue, 28th November 2018. European Commission, Brussels

A celebration of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage

Our Heritage: where the
past meets the future
is the key message of the 2018
European Year of Cultural Heritage
More information at:

Charter Award Ceremony 2018: 19 Sustainable Destinations awarded in Brussels!

Charter Award Ceremony 2018, European Parliament, Brussels

Published on:

Every year, we celebrate success with the Sustainable Destinations that have started their path or renewed their commitment towards Sustainability. On the 29th November, 19 Sustainable Destinations were awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas, in a high-level Ceremony organised in the European Parliament, kindly hosted by the Member of the European Parliament Mr Paolo de Castro from the Group of the progressive alliance of Socialists & Democrats.

EUROPARC was delighted to welcome a range of high-level speakers to this year’s Ceremony: the MEP Julie Ward from the CULT Committee, MEP Giovanni La Via from Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Christof Kienel, Head of Unit Tourism, Secretariat of the Commission for Natural Resources (NAT), European Committee of the Region and Nicola Notaro, Head of Unit Nature Protection, DG Environment.

The Charter Award Ceremony 2018

Ignace Schops and MEP Paolo de Castro at the Charter Award Ceremony 2018

The implementation of the Charter is an opportunity to work side-by-side with local business partners and ensure that tourism can bring social and economic benefits to the local community.

There is a clear link between tourism development and Sustainable Agriculture, as the  MEP Paolo de Castro, who is also Vice-chair of the Agriculture Committee, highlighted in his motivating welcome speech. Moreover, Gianfranco Ciola from the Dune Costiere Regional Nature Park spoke about the important project that they are carrying out in the area based on agriculture as a tool for enhancing the rural territory with a view to sustainable development linked to knowledge and tourism.

With the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage as a background of all events in Brussels, we invited the MEP Julie Ward from the CULT Committee and heard the example of the Spanish National Park of Garajonay and the “Silbo Gomero”, a whistle language used for the daily tasks, as a warning and to deceive the authorities of the mountain and the island. Despite a cultural tradition, the Silbo was endangered and fell in disuse, but its recognition as Immaterial World Heritage, made it recover and today it is taught in schools, studied and researched.

from left to right: Gianfranco Ciola and Simonetta dello Monaco from Dune Costiere, and Francisco Correa, Master silbadore from La Gomera.

Working together

The Charter Award Ceremony has been an excellent occasion to not only celebrate 19 outstanding examples for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas from countries as diverse as Italy, Spain, France, United Kingdom and Germany, but also allowed to share experiences and discover how every Park shares the same passion for their Nature and People, for the natural and cultural treasures.

This shared understanding could be felt in the short thank you speeches given by the Park representatives when accepting the Charter Award Certificate. Even if not all of them were given in English, combined translation efforts allowed to make every contribution understood. A beautiful example of the major aspect the Charter Network is all about.

The Charter works, because we work together,

highlighted EUROPARC Director Carol Ritchie.

The key principles of the Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas comprise the protection of the natural and cultural heritage, participation by all stakeholders, effective partnership working, planning to prepare and implement a sustainable tourism strategy, to realize the environmental, social and economic benefits of everyone working more sustainably.

Good for Nature, Good for People

The local engagement that Protected Areas are challenged to achieve with the implementation of the methodology is one of the stepping stones of the Charter, as it was highlighted by the French Garajonay National Park authority (Guadalupe Island) who described it as “a powerful instrument to better influence on the tourism development into and around Park:

the charter plays an important role to deal with transversal problems that only can be solved by working together – private businesses promoting sustainability, the feeling of belonging to a common tourism destiny, and the need to work together in viable projects that promote the territory and its conservation.

This year EUROPARC re-awarded 15 and welcomed 4 new Sustainable Destinations to the Network.

We are now counting 168 Charter Parks in 20 countries. They are spread all over Europe but unite around the shared vision to make sustainable tourism a meaningful quality experience which safeguards natural and cultural values, supports local livelihoods and quality of life and which is after all economically viable.

New Sustainable Destinations Awarded

Sustainable Destinations re-awarded





United Kingdom

Congratulations to all the Sustainable Destinations awarded. You are on the right path to make the difference within your community. Proving that Sustainable Tourism is Good for Nature and Good for People.

International Premiere of the film ‘A SUSTAINABLE JOURNEY’

The International Premiere of the film took place during the Charter Award Ceremony. Produced by EUROPARC Federation in the framework of CEETO project, this film portrays the story of a traveler seeking to escape the pressures of everyday life to a different kind of tourism that he believes will be good for nature and good for him too. The objective of the film is to raise awareness among travelers and local communities on the importance of sustainable tourism.

More info at:

The Film is available in 5 different languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish and German.

We would like to congratulate and thank all the awarded Charter Parks once more for having celebrated with us here in Brussels and for having made the Charter Award Ceremony 2018 a real success!

We hope the event left all participants feeling energized and inspired to engage even more with or within the Charter Network.

We hope the event left all participants feeling energized and inspired to engage even more with or within the Charter Network. To keep your memories alive we share with you the photos taken throughout and the live video of the conference.

Kick-off: #HabitatHeroes – EUROPARC Junior Rangers for Protected Areas and Natura 2000

Published on:

EUROPARC Junior Rangers discover and learn about the many valuable species and habitats of Protected Areas all over Europe – and beyond.

With their engagement they help to preserve our natural treasures and inspire their peers to grow more curious and caring about nature as well. EUROPARC Junior Rangers are true Habitat Heroes and as such we want to celebrate them once more!

International Junior Ranger Camp 2018 – Müritz National Park

To make the current activities of Junior Ranger network visible, EUROPARC Federation has launched a campaign together with Junior Ranger groups across Europe:

Meet our Habitat Heroes – EUROPARC Junior Rangers for Protected Areas and Natura 2000

How to learn more and keep track of the #HabitatHeroes campaign activities?

Over the rest of 2018 and throughout 2019 we will “map the field” and raise awareness for the great work Junior Ranger groups are currently doing for threatened flora, fauna and habitats in Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites in particular.

  • Visit the “Habitat Heroes” campaign website: For now, we are thrilled to introduce you to our Habitat Hero campaign pioneers – groups already taking action in 2018. You will find a growing map and overview of all Junior Ranger groups joining the campaign  over 2019.
  • Besides, you will meet our “Habitat Heroes” over the upcoming months in dedicated articles – make sure you follow our news!
  • Keep an eye on social media – the #HabitatHeroes will provide you with exciting updates from our Junior Ranger groups that take part in the campaign. Don’t forget to share their actions!
  • European Day of Parks – 24th May 2019 – will  be all about “Our Natural Treasures” and our Junior Rangers are all invited to run a “Habitat Heroes” conservation activity dedicated to the natural treasure of their Protected Areas.

Want to join the campaign? We are happy to learn about your conservation action – just drop us a mail:

Time to meet our first #HabitatHeroes pioneers: The Kullaberg Junior Rangers introduce themselves!

by Tor Larsson,  Kullaberg Junior Rangers Mentor

Kullaberg Nature Reserve is located in the south west of Sweden, on a peninsula with a ridge pointing out to the sea. The area has been inhabited since the stone-age and was in fact the first part of what today is Sweden to show when the continental glacier withdrew after the last glacial period. At the peak is a lighthouse overlooking the strait of Öresund and you can see the Danish coastline.

Junior Rangers in Kullaberg Nature Reserve ©Tor Larsson (Mentor)

  • Tell us all about your “natural treasure”: Which is the species or habitat you learn and work with the most in your Protected Area? What is special about it?

In the marine reserve of Kullaberg, you can see seals and harbour porpoise and the steep cliffs the peregrine falcon mate.Even though it is quite small, the Kullaberg Nature Reserve is the most visited nature reserve in Sweden with more than half a million visitors each year. With that kind of exposure and several commercial companies engaging in activities such as scuba diving, rock climbing and mountain biking, there is a lot of work needed to maintain Kullaberg a sustainable tourism destination.

  • Describe us what you and your fellow Junior Rangers are doing/will do to learn more and protect your natural treasure. Do you even teach others?

The area that is of most interest to the Kullaberg Junior Ranger Group is the marine nature reserve and in particular the pollution and amount of plastic waste in the sea. One Kullaberg Junior Ranger says:

Kullaberg is fairly well-protected on land but the marine nature reserve is more vulnerable. All kind of plastic waste floats in and we can make difference by helping to clear the coastline from it!

The group also helps with other things; like monitoring invasive species and supporting the population of the red-listed eel by releasing glass eel in the marine nature reserve. Besides the Kullaberg Junior Ranger Group has been working to provide a new secure fire-place and wood for burning in an area where there previously had been several illegal fireplaces made.

  • What do you find tricky being a Junior Ranger – and what is the best thing about it?

The Kullaberg Junior Ranger group is enthusiastic about the Junior Ranger programme in general, especially about the opportunity to meet new friends in the international junior ranger community. They think it is essential, however, to get more people to know about the programme.

We ought to tell more young people about it. Maybe we could have presentations in the schools.


The Kullaberg Junior Ranger programme is administered by the local scout group, Jonstorp Kustscoutkår. 

Learn more about the Kullaberg Habitat Heroes  on their (Swedish) webpage and on their Facebook-Page

Also, make sure you watch their new video; taking you on a tour of their summer 2018 – full of Junior Ranger action…including EUROPARC International Junior Ranger Camp in Müritz National Park!