As a response to increasing human pressures on marine ecosystems, the legislation aimed at improving the conservation and management of marine coastal areas in European and contiguous seas underwent crucial advances. These areas, however, still remain largely affected by increasing threats leading to biodiversity loss.

This study reviews, by using emblematic case studies and expert knowledge, current conservation tools, comparing their application in different areas to assess their effectiveness, potential for synergies, and contradictions.

The authors state that despite regional differences in their application, the existing legislative frameworks have the potential to regulate human activities and to protect marine biodiversity. However, it is underlined that four challenges remain to be addressed to fully achieve environmental policy goals:

  1. Lack of shared vision representing a limitation in transboundary collaboration.
  2. Lack of systematic procedures for the selection of protected marine sites.
  3. Lack of coherent ecological networks.
  4. Hotspots of conflicts with private economic interests prevailing over conservation aims.

Additionally, recommendations are given to overcome the fragmented approach still characterizing the conservation and management of coastal marine environments.

The authors suggest that holistic, integrated, ecosystem-based, cross-cutting approaches can avoid conflicts among institutions so as to provide effective and timely solutions to current and future challenges concerning the conservation and management of marine ecosystems and associated goods and services.

Fraschetti et al. (2018) Light and shade in marine conservation across European and contiguous seas. Frontiers in Marine Science 5:420.