Like most ocean regions today, the European and contiguous seas experience cumulative impacts from local human activities and global pressures. They are largely in poor environmental condition with deteriorating trends. Despite several success stories, European policies for marine conservation fall short of being effective.

This study synthesizes the major issues that emerged from the analysis of challenges, opportunities and obstacles for advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas made by Marcons, a 4-year multi-national COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action.

It comes up with 12 key recommendations for policy makers, marine managers, and researchers. To increase the effectiveness of marine conservation planning the authors recommend: (1) Designing coherent networks of marine protected areas (MPAs), (2) designing MPA networks within a broader transboundary planning framework, and (3) implementing integrated land-freshwater-sea approaches. To address inadequate or poorly informed management: (4) developing and implementing adaptive management plans in all sites of the Natura 2000 European conservation network, (5) embedding and implementing cumulative effects assessments, and (6) promoting actions to reach “good environmental status”. To account for global change in conservation planning and management: (7) developing conservation strategies to address the impacts of global change, and (8) incorporating biological invasions in conservation plans. Finally, to improve current practices that may compromise the effectiveness of conservation actions: (9) reinforcing the collection of high-quality open-access data, (10) improving mechanisms for public participation in MPA planning and management, (11) prioritizing conservation goals in full collaboration with stakeholders, and (12) addressing gender inequality in marine sciences and conservation.

Katsanevakis et al. (2020) Twelve recommendations for advancing marine conservation in European and contiguous seas. Frontiers in Marine Science doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.565968.