This Directive was adopted by the EU in 1992, and is based around the protection and conservation of all habitats, flora and fauna of Member States. It aims to maintain biodiversity while taking account of all social, economic, cultural, and regional aspects of each country. Working in conjunction with the Birds Directive, a further five annexes have been laid out separately within this piece of legislation.
- Annex I demands the definition of each individual habitat type and the features of interest within them.
- Annex II covers roughly 900 species of plant and animal, specifying that sites must be managed with the ecological need of each species as paramount.
- Annex III enforces both site and species specific assessments, while defining the importance of the habitat to the local community.
- Annex IV enforces a strict protection regime across the entire range of a species, both within and outside of designated areas.
- Annex V ensures that any exploitation or taking of species is compatible with favourable conservation status.
Another factor of the Habitats Directive includes the implementation of Species Action Plans to restore and maintain populations of particular species. Furthermore, all Member States must provide regular reports on the status of their habitats and species, and on any compensatory measures put in place by the State. The Directive is constantly improved and amended based on the advice of a specialised Habitats Committee. However, from a marine perspective, habitat conservation and protection can only be effectively carried out by ensuring clean and suitable water quality. This was the reason for the establishment of the Water Frameworks Directive and the Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive.