Environmental risks increase if Malta won’t fund Marine Directive measures – EU audit report

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The risk of environmental degradation will only increase if there isn’t the funding to support ‘new measures’ within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, an European Auditing Group has warned.

EUROSAI, the European Working Group on Environmental Auditing, has said that a series of new efforts outlined under the EU Programme of Measures for the MSFD, have had their implementations delayed. This has resulted in increasing, ‘risks of environmental degradation, as National Authorities would not be in a position to take the necessary actions.’

The report also warns that, ‘such delays increase the risk that Malta will not fulfil the relative EU targets.’

This is just one of the findings presented in the EUROSAI’s latest Cooperative Audit report entitled ‘Are adequate mechanisms in place for the designation and effective management of MPAs within the Mediterranean Sea?’

The report examines Malta in relation to fellow European member states; Albania, Cyprus, Greece, France, Portugal and Slovenia. Its aim is to examine the effectiveness of each country in implementing various policies including the Integrated Maritime Policy and the protection of marine life and biodiversity.

Not reach Aichi Target 11

While committing resources were a problem for Malta, there was also concern by Malta’s Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) that Malta was not going to hit targets on designating coastal and marine areas.

According to the 20-point Aichi targets on biodiversity, Target 11 focuses on designating areas of land and sea for specific importance to biodiversity.

Target 11 states that, ‘By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.’

However, with only 5 years left until the target is supposed to be met, Malta’s SAI explained that, ‘minimal progress registered by Malta up to 2015 in designating MPAs (Marine Protected Areas), due to the prolonged undertaking of assessments on marine ecosystems.’

‘Up to 2015, Malta had only designated two per cent of its coastal and marine areas (FMZ). During 2016, a further nine sites were designated as MPAs raising the total marine protected sites to a third of the FMZ, protecting all the species as stipulated by the Natura 2000 Directives,’ the report adds.

Political difficulties preventing SPAMIs

According to the auditors assessing Malta’s efforts to develop Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs), pinpoint difficulties with North African countries have hampered efforts to create Marine Protected Areas with fellow Mediterranean countries.

‘According to SAI Malta, the main reasons inhibiting the establishment of MPA with neighbouring countries include the ongoing negotiations between Mediterranean countries on national marine jurisdiction and boundaries;  political difficulties, particularly those relating to North African countries, that have shifted downwards marine conservation priorities;  the fact that Malta has not yet extended assessments of biodiversity within the high seas; work and funds being focused on the Maltese waters to establish and manage MPAs within Malta’s legal jurisdiction.’

Capacity building

Concluding their recommendations for Malta, the auditors stated that, ‘unless national authorities strengthen their position to enable them to adopt, implement, monitor and enforce site-specific management plans, the risk exists that it will be difficult to establish the required equilibrium between conservation and blue growth. The Report proposes a number of recommendations aimed at strategic, administrative capacity and operational levels.’