European Parliament votes to restore 20% of EU’s land and sea by 2050

The new Nature Restoration law includes both land and marine ecosystems, and sets a target for the EU to restore almost a third of its degraded ecosystems by 2030, and a total of 20% of the bloc's territory by 2050.
The European Parliament has adopted the first EU law to restore degraded ecosystems across the EU.

The European Parliament has adopted the first EU law to restore degraded ecosystems across the EU.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

The European Union has a new law this week, aiming to restore its member states' natural marine and land ecosystems to a good condition by 2050.

On Wednesday 28 February, the European Parliament (EP) voted in favour of the EU Nature Restoration Law, with the aims of restoring degraded ecosystems in all member states, helping to achieve the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives, and enhancing food security.

Currently, according to EU data, 80% of the EU's natural ecosystems are deemed to be "in poor shape".

The European Parliament is seeking to reverse this by obliging member states to restore at least 30% of habitats covered by the new law (from forests, grasslands and wetlands to rivers, lakes and certain marine habitats such as coral beds) from a poor to a good condition by 2030, increasing to 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050. This covers approximately 20% of the bloc's total land and sea territory.

However, member states will be allowed some "flexibility" when it comes to the new law's impact on agriculture, lawmakers indicated, although the implications for fisheries and aquaculture were not immediately clear.

"The regulation will restore degraded ecosystems while respecting the agricultural sector by giving flexibility to member states," said European Parliament Rapporteur César Luena in a press statement.

Ambitious targets include restoration of marine habitats

Until 2030, EU member states are to prioritise restoration of sites already protected as important habitats under Europe's "Natura 2000" scheme.

The marine areas forming part of the Natura 2000 network amount to about 9% of the EU's seas - or 452,494 square kilometers of marine environments around Europe's coastline.

Under the new law, once a habitat is restored to good condition, EU countries are obliged to ensure the area does not significantly deteriorate. Member states will also have to adopt national restoration plans detailing how they intend to achieve these targets, the EP said.

How does the new law affect fisheries and aquaculture?

The full extent of the new Nature Restoration Law in the context of fisheries and aquaculture is yet to become clear, however the legislation notes that the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 emphasises the need for stronger action to restore degraded marine ecosystems, including carbon-rich ecosystems and important fish spawning and nursery areas.

"That strategy also sets out that the Commission is to propose a new action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems," the legislation states.

Regarding the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, the legislation states that "Where the protection of coastal and marine habitats requires that fishing or aquaculture activities be regulated, the common fisheries policy (CFP) applies."

The new legislation notes that the CFP needs to implement an "ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management so as to ensure that negative impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystems are minimised" and that it should "ensure that aquaculture and fisheries activities avoid degradation of the marine environment".

Marine restoration in the spotlight this week

The new EU law comes at a time when initiatives are underway from within the aquaculture and seafood communities to boost marine restoration projects.

This week, WeAreAquaculture reported on the launch of the Ocean Restoration Programme, aiming to restore 1,500 hectares of marine habitats by 2030.

Ocean innovation companies Urchinomics, Bellona, Bright Tide, SeaForester, Oyster Heaven, and the Sea Ranger Service are partnering on the project, led by Nestlé Purina PetCare Europe, aiming to develop scalable solutions to restore marine biodiversity.

Related Stories

No stories found.