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Green Week tackles declining biodiversity, birds & marine life under threat

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Green Week tackles declining biodiversity, birds & marine life under threatNearly 15% of birds in the EU are threatened with extinction, as well as 7.5% of all marine fish species in European waters, according to new reports published by the European Commission.

Green Week 2015, Europe’s biggest conference dedicated to environment policy, held last week, looked at the reasons behind these trends and ways to fight back against declining biodiversity.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “we need to maintain Europe’s biodiversity – it underpins both our quality of life and our economy – ‘our health and our wealth.’ It is under threat and we need to make sure it’s properly protected. Green Week will provide some valuable input to our on-going Fitness Check into the nature directives. That means looking for ways to improve the way they work and make them easier to enforce, without compromising the goals that are so important to our citizens.”

Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “these reports contain some worrying statistics – but they also show the value of well-targeted actions to protect the biodiversity we depend on. Our task is to find ways of building on those successes, and spreading them to other areas. Green Week is an excellent opportunity to gather input for the next steps.”

Coming after the recent State of Nature report, these latest Red Lists, financed by the European Commission, paint a similarly mixed picture of European wildlife and underline the urgent need for action. They also demonstrate that efforts to improve vulnerable ecosystems can be highly effective.

Despite some conservation successes, many fish are in decline due to overfishing, changing land use, pollution, infrastructure development and climate change. While Atlantic Cod and Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are recovering, marine management has been less successful for other commercial species. Sharks and rays are the most threatened, with 40.4% of them threatened with extinction, and 39.7 % experiencing declining populations. The Critically Endangered Angelshark (Squatina squatina), once found throughout European waters, is now restricted to the Canary Islands.

Looking at birds, 13 % of the 533 species assessed (i.e. 67) are under threat, including 10 that are Critically Endangered (the highest threat level). These include iconic birds such as the Sociable Lapwing, Yellow-breasted Bunting and Slender-billed Curlew. But targeted conservation action prompted by EU initiatives has led to success: 20 once-threatened species are now classified as Least Concern, including the Dalmatian Pelican, Eurasian Thick-knee, Black Kite and Lesser Kestrel.

The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy sets out actions to halt and reverse by 2020 the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Commission is currently undertaking a mid-term assessment of the strategy, which will identify possible areas for improvement.

The Commission is also undertaking a fitness check of nature legislation. Green Week featured dedicated sessions where these and other issues were discussed and debated. In parallel, an online consultation on the nature legislation – the Birds and Habitats Directives – is open until 24 July.

Last month over 90 environmental NGOs across Europe launched a joint online action !to save European nature from Commission President Juncker’s deregulation agenda.!

An internet action called Nature Alert will allow citizens across the 28 EU countries to participate in the European Commission public consultation and, by doing so, save the laws that protect nature in Europe.

BirdLife Malta, along with International NGOs and the European Environmental Bureau will organise and promote the e-action.

Photograph: Turtle Dove by Dennis Cachia

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