Like most ocean regions today, the European and contiguous seas experience cumulative impacts from local human activities and global pressures. They are largely in poor environmental condition with deteriorating trends. Despite several success stories, European policies for marine conservation fall short of being effective. Acknowledging the challenges for marine conservation, a 4-year multi-national network, MarCons, supported collaborative marine conservation efforts to bridge the gap between science, management and policy, aiming to contribute in reversing present negative trends. By consolidating a large network of more than 100 scientists from 26 countries, and conducting a series of workshops over 4 years (2016–2020), MarCons analyzed challenges, opportunities and obstacles for advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas. Here, we synthesize the major issues that emerged from this analysis and make 12 key recommendations for policy makers, marine managers, and researchers. To increase the effectiveness of marine conservation planning, we recommend (1) designing coherent networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the framework of marine spatial planning (MSP) and applying systematic conservation planning principles, including re-evaluation of existing management zones, (2) designing MPA networks within a broader transboundary planning framework, and (3) implementing integrated land-freshwater-sea approaches. To address inadequate or poorly informed management, we recommend (4) developing and implementing adaptive management plans in all sites of the Natura 2000 European conservation network and revising the Natura 2000 framework, (5) embedding and implementing cumulative effects assessments into a risk management process and making them operational, and (6) promoting actions to reach ‘good environmental status’ in all European waters. To account for global change in conservation planning and management, we further recommend (7) developing conservation strategies to address the impacts of global change, for example identifying climate-change refugia as high priority conservation areas, and (8) incorporating biological invasions in conservation plans and prioritizing management actions to control invasive species. Finally, to improve current practices that may compromise the effectiveness of conservation actions, we recommend (9) reinforcing the collection of high-quality open-access data, (10) improving mechanisms for public participation in MPA planning and management, (11) prioritizing conservation goals in full collaboration with stakeholders, and (12) addressing gender inequality in marine sciences and conservation.
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Gender equality has been identified as a key component of the health of marine social-ecological systems (Friedman et al., 2020). Gender equality is also key in defining research interests and priorities regarding ocean health; women have raised important, and often neglected, concerns in marine conservation (Gissi et al., 2018b). Within the framework of MarCons, we explored data from the EU (European Commission, 2019) and three EU research institutes and academia: the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the Academia in Italy. We found a consistent pattern of gender imbalance across institutions and nations. Whereas a relative gender balance was observed in Ph.D. graduates, a gap was formed between women and men representation in latter career stages, with women being most underrepresented in senior positions. The proportion of women in senior positions varied from 13% in CSIC to 24% in the Academia in Italy (Giakoumi et al., unpublished data). Furthermore, we observed the same pattern in publishing, funding (through European Research Council grants), leadership roles in research institutions, with EU women scientists being more underrepresented in latter stages of their scientific career path. This generalized gender bias can have an impact on setting conservation research priorities and communicating results to policy-and decision-makers (Tallis et al., 2014).
This article was undertaken in the framework of COST Action 15121 “Advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas” (MarCons; http://www.marcons-cost.eu; Katsanevakis et al., 2017), supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology). KY was supported by a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship (NE/P00668X/1). CP would like to acknowledge FCT/MCTES national funds for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017/2019). AB received salary support from the Canada Research Chairs Program.
We thank Charles Loiseau for producing an initial version of Figure 3 for Stelzenm?ller et al. (2020), which we adapted for the needs of this manuscript. The infographic of Figure 1 was produced by Ragu Communication. Funding. This article was undertaken in the framework of COST Action 15121 ?Advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas? (MarCons; http://www.marcons-cost.eu ; Katsanevakis et al., 2017), supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology). KY was supported by a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship (NE/P00668X/1). CP would like to acknowledge FCT/MCTES national funds for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017/2019). AB received salary support from the Canada Research Chairs Program.
© Copyright © 2020 Katsanevakis, Coll, Fraschetti, Giakoumi, Goldsborough, Mačić, Mackelworth, Rilov, Stelzenmüller, Albano, Bates, Bevilacqua, Gissi, Hermoso, Mazaris, Pita, Rossi, Teff-Seker and Yates.
- Natura 2000
- conservation planning
- cumulative impact assessment
- global change
- invasive species
- risk management
- transboundary collaboration
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- Aquatic Science
- Water Science and Technology
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
- Ocean Engineering