Peter Evans in The Conversation ‘Our oceans are under pressure like never before, with over 60% struggling from the increasing impact of fishing, coastal activities and climate change. The harsh truth is that as we move towards 2022 only 3% of oceans are totally free from the pressure of human activity. The greatest impact appears to be on large-bodied animals such as marine mammals and birds, which cannot reproduce as quickly as smaller species.
Through my 40 years of extensive work on marine animals – and my current involvement in a European Commission project to help assess the effectiveness of marine protection areas (MPAs) – I have come to understand some of the issues which we need to consider to ensure that MPAs protect marine biodiversity.
Over one-third of marine mammals are threatened with extinction – and in Europe over 30% of marine birds are declining. Some species, including the Balearic shearwater and Atlantic puffin, are already endangered. MPAs have been established to limit or exclude human activities that could potentially harm species and habitats. And, after a slow start, the last ten years have seen encouraging progress. MPAs now cover the 2020 global target of 10% of oceans, while some seas with high levels of human activity (the North Sea for example) have reached as much as 27% MPA coverage.