Publication | Statement Scientific background report in preparation of fisheries measures to protect the bottom integrity
... and the different habitats within the Belgian part of the North Sea.
In the European Union, two main legal instruments apply to the protection of marine habitats or habitats: the European Habitats Directive (HD) and the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Under the MSFD, the objective is to protect the marine environment and achieve good environmental status (GES). The implementation of the MSFD focuses on 11 descriptors, including 'biodiversity and seabed integrity'. The European Habitats Directive obliges Member States to strive for the conservation and protection of important or threatened species and habitat types, through a network of marine protected areas - the Natura2000 network.
In Belgium, the southwestern area "Vlaamse Banken" was designated as a marine protected area, with two habitat types to be protected. The first habitat type 1110 "Sandbanks continuously covered by sea water" represents the most important habitat type of the Belgian part of the North Sea (BNS) and includes the entire area with a geologically unique sandbank system. Gravel beds and biogenic aggregations of the sand mason worm Lanice conchilega, which are found within these sandbar systems, are classified as habitat type 1170 "Reefs." This is the second habitat type to be protected. For both habitat types, in 2017 specific conservation objectives established, which were in line with the environmental objectives set out in the MSFD and revised in 2021. Belgium's implementation of both directives, HD and MSFD, is therefore following an integrated approach.