On 17 December 2020, German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ulrike Müller of the Renew Europe Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“In the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the Commission proposes to put 10% of EU territory under ‘strict protection’. In a draft of the criteria and guidelines for the designation of protected areas (October 2020), it suggests that extractive activities such as mining, fishing and hunting or forestry are incompatible with this level of protection.
The culturally traditional practice of pond fishing makes an important contribution to attaining the objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy. The cultivated pond areas provide habitats for many, often rare, species, contribute positively to the climate and to the hydrological system, serve as a nutrient sink and provide sediment retention, and allow the sustainable production of regional food. The cessation of pond farming in protected areas would inevitably lead to a loss of valuable substitute habitats.
1. In its conclusions of 16 October 2020 on the Biodiversity Strategy, the Council stressed that the ‘stricter level of protection may allow for certain human activities, which are in line with the conservation objectives of the protected area’. Does the Commission support this position?
2. If not, how does the Commission justify that extractive activities that have a proven positive impact on biodiversity are not compatible with a ‘strict level of protection’?
3. Does the Commission agree that traditional pond farming can make an important contribution to the preservation of species-rich biotopes and can be compatible with the conservation objectives?”
On 28 January 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 sets a target of 30% of EU land and 30% of EU sea to be under legal protection by 2030, of which one third to be put under strict protection. It also specifies that ‘strict protection does not necessarily mean the area is not accessible to humans, but leaves natural processes essentially undisturbed to respect the area’s ecological requirements’.
In line with this definition, the draft technical note mentioned by the Honourable Member explains that strict protection is adequate for natural features which can thrive through natural processes, but not for areas where the existing natural features require active management.
The draft technical note also specifies that less intrusive activities, such as non-intrusive and strictly controlled tourism, may be compatible with strict protection, in line with the Council Conclusions of 16 October 2020. Which activities are compatible with strict protection, and under which conditions, will need to be identified for each individual area, based on the ecological requirements of the area.
Extractive activities are in principle not compatible with leaving natural processes undisturbed, and are therefore not expected to be allowed in strictly protected areas.
Pond farming is carried out in many Natura 2000 sites. When meeting certain conditions, traditional pond farming can be compatible with the preservation of the sites’ natural values and play a role in the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity.
The Commission therefore agrees that, if in line with the conservation objectives of those areas and under specific circumstances, traditional pond farming could be part of the adequate management of other protected areas, under a less strict protection regime.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/eagle-birds-plumage-nature-usa-5364097/