On Tuesday 27th of January, a coalition of seven environmental NGOs, including NABU, the German BirdLife partner, have taken their federal government to court as a response to the lack of application of conservation rules in marine protected areas (MPAs).
These rules should have been set to adhere to EU legislation (the Birds and the Habitats Directive).
Ten years ago, the German government designated their Marine Protected Areas. However, ten of those areas in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) still have no national regulation and management. They are known as “Marine Paper Parks”. This means that today, each square kilometer of the seabed can still be destroyed with bottom trawls, gillnets can still be used without mitigating for harbor porpoises or seabird bycatch, sand and gravel extraction is unregulated, ships can travel through and seismic exploration is allowed.
In 2011 scientists for fisheries and nature conservation experts came together to propose fishing management rules based on the results of the “Environmentally Sound Fisheries Management in Marine Protected Areas” (EMPAS) project. However, the nonexistence cooperation between responsible ministries, Environment and Fisheries, has prevented any form of decision from taking place.
Now, without management plans, NGOs are trying to fix what the federal government bungled up, for example, to stop destructive fisheries in the designated MPAs Sylter Outer Reef in the North Sea and the Pomeranian Bay in the Baltic. The German government’s six years deadline to apply EU legislation is way overdue, regulation and management of these areas has utterly failed, and numerous meetings have run to the ground. The NGOs now look to the court to decide.
Kim Detloff, Head of Marine Conservation, NABU