Greenpeace, Seas At Risk and WWF are disappointed with today’s decision by the European Court of First Instance not to protect the waters of the Azores from a significant increase in commercial fishing.

The region supports a diverse range of marine life, including turtles, sharks, whales and dolphins and deep-sea corals, and is especially vulnerable to intensive fishing activities like trawling and longlining. The Court has ruled in favour of a 2003 decision by the Council of Ministers to open one of Europe’s best preserved deep-sea environments to the fishing fleets of all EU member states. Previously these waters were only fished by vessels from the Azores and few from mainland Portugal.

China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and India have continued to obstruct and undermine every substantial proposal for tackling GHG emissions from shipping at an IMO meeting in Oslo his week.

The International Maritime Organisation’s special greenhouse gas working group meeting, which concluded today, was tasked with carrying forward a number of key initiatives aimed at reducing GHG emissions from shipping. Despite constructive proposals from the European Commission and EU states, progress on an emissions trading scheme and a levy on marine bunker fuel were blocked entirely, while China and others took every opportunity to weaken and delay plans for design and operational indexes that would reduce CO2 emissions from new and existing ships respectively.

Twelve of Sweden’s biggest importers and exporters have signed a letter of intent that will lead to the collection of data and use of environmental criteria in their shipping procurement.

These developments show that consumer pressure and campaigns pushing for greener maritime transport can indeed change the policies of commercial enterprises – we now see a shift from a position of considering the environmental impacts of shipping as “someone else’s problem” to an acknowledgement that the way in which goods are shipped is the responsibility of purchasers.