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11 July 2018

The European Parliament's Environment Committee today voted to strengthen the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy, which aims to reduce plastic pollution and marine litter.

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09 July 2018

As European political parties prepare for the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, Seas At Risk publishes its ‘Manifesto for the sea, calling on politicians to put the protection of seas and oceans high on their election programmes.

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27 June 2018

15 marine conservation NGOs from Spain and Portugal, including Seas At Risk members Sciaena, LPN, GEOTA, Quercus and ENT Foundation, have agreed to coordinate their work on key marine conservation issues. Their first joint meeting took place on 11 June 2018 and discussed Iberian sardine stock, deep sea fishing opportunities and full implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy.  

Nature does not comply with man-made boundaries, and Portuguese and Spanish fishermen have long shared fishing stocks. Iberian NGOs recognise the need to collaborate closely to improve the health of marine ecosystems in the region, given the deep geographical, biological, social, economic and political connection between Spain and Portugal. The recent collapse of sardine stock, for example, was a stark reminder of the need for greater cooperation in the region.   

The marine conservation NGOs agreed that full implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy is crucial. The Portuguese and Spanish Ministries must take the lead in Europe and follow the best available scientific advice to restore and maintain fish populations at sustainable levels by 2020. In the past, Portugal and Spain have often been reluctant to respect the Common Fisheries Policy, and the Iberian NGOs are seeking to meet with the European Commissioner of the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, to discuss the gravity of the situation in the region.

The Portuguese and Spanish NGOs agreed that both countries need to be more proactive in promoting sustainable management of small-scale and low-impact fisheries, and to work closely together towards sound management of the Natura 2000 network. The challenges faced in Iberian waters go far beyond fisheries, with marine litter, oil and gas extraction plans, unsustainable river basin management, and pollution all requiring joint action. The Iberian NGOs thus agreed to compile a list of cooperation areas, as well as creating a shared communication platform to increase their capacity to deal with these environmental challenges.   

27 June 2018

The European Parliament recently approved the own initiative report on sustainable and competitive aquaculture. Regrettably, MEPs failed to take the opportunity to develop a new vision for European aquaculture, instead choosing to simply reiterate the conclusions from EU reports published five years ago.

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26 June 2018

The next EU legislative period will start in July 2019, from which time the European Parliament will no longer use single-use plastic bottles at its facilities and meetings. On 11 June, the Bureau of the Parliament agreed to include new conditions in its upcoming canteen and catering contract, disallowing the delivery of plastic bottles to Parliament facilities. Instead, the number of drinking water fountains will be extended to facilitate the use of reusable bottles at Parliament facilities.

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11 June 2018

This summer, unique whale research vessel Song of the Whale will be leading a new project studying whales and other cetaceans. The research project is supported by Seas at Risk’s member, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and other partners, and aims to establish cetacean abundance and distribution in the Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic areas. The collection of up-to-date data on whale populations will allow for swift responses to the threats faced by species in the region.

The project was officially launched on World Oceans Day, 8 June, with Song of the Whale arriving in the Spanish port of Malaga, where it was hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This new research project, also known as the 2018 ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative is an international collaborative survey, which aims to better understand the conservation status of cetaceans at the macro-regional level in the Mediterranean/Black Sea, optimise monitoring in the long-term, and improve regional cooperation on protection of marine biodiversity.

Local scientists will participate in the survey, which includes aerial and vessel-based research and uses both visual survey methods and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM). While cetaceans are the primary focus, data will also be collected on marine turtles, swordfish, giant devil rays and marine debris.

Whales face increasingly diverse and complex threats, with some species already endangered and others in continuing population decline as a result of human activities. IFAW is leading the fight to save marine mammals from such threats, through a mix of campaigning, research and rescue operations. Recently, long-time IFAW partner, Dr Alexandros Frantzis, together with IFAW’s marine mammal scientist, Russell Leaper, highlighted the urgent need to reduce the risk of vessel strikes with sperm whales within the Hellenic Trench, Greece. IFAW is providing support to the ACCOBAMS Survey initiative which will allow the Song of the Whale team to survey this high priority area of action, given the need to reduce the risk of vessel strikes.

IFAW and the Song of the Whale team have a long history of involvement in marine mammal conservation, including very early monk seal conservation efforts in Greece in the 1980s and later monk seal research projects in Turkey and Morocco. In 1994, they studied large whales in the Ligurian Sea to support the designation of the Pelagos Sanctuary, and, in 2003, were involved in the first ACCOBAMS partnership project on acoustic research techniques within the Ionian Sea, as part of the planning for that basin-wide survey.

For more than four decades, IFAW has successfully campaigned on whale welfare and conservation issues. Its work includes supporting pioneering benign research projects, driving habitat protection measures, and using international conventions and legal strategies to end commercial whaling. In addition, it has worked to publicise the economic pitfalls of whale hunting and highlight the economic opportunities presented by whale watching. The IFAW also focuses on less well-known issues, such as the threats posed by ship strikes and ocean noise. All of IFAW’s work is based on the best available science, and that is why for this World Oceans Day IFAW decided to celebrate their involvement in the 2018 ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative. 

04 June 2018

President Tajani’s response to NGOs’ challenge to ban single-use plastics from the European Parliament is disappointing, and serves to highlight that the Parliament could do considerably more to reduce waste generation. The imminent renewal of its catering contract, however, presents an ideal opportunity to implement real change.

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01 June 2018

The European Parliament recently approved new legislation on the management of fisheries in the North Sea. The multi-annual plan (MAP) is the second such programme, after the earlier Baltic plan. Both bills undermine the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, a central tenet of which is to end overfishing.

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28 May 2018

In an unprecedented move to tackle marine litter, the European Commission launched the long-awaited proposal for legislation to reduce the flow of single use plastics and fishing gear into the seas. The initiative focuses on the 10 most commonly found single use plastics and fishing gear, which together represent around 70% of marine litter found on Europe’s beaches.

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30 April 2018

The Common Fisheries Policy legal deadline to bring fishing limits within sustainable levels and end the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted catch is rapidly approaching. Seas At Risk, together with its members and other NGOs, call on European and national policy makers to meet the key objectives and commitments of the Common Fisheries Policy.

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24 April 2018

After many years of campaigning for a deposit return scheme, the UK is finally taking real steps towards the introduction of deposit return schemes. Seas At Risk member, the Marine Conservation Society, is hopeful that deposit return schemes will soon be in place across the UK. With yet more countries taking this crucial step to reduce pollution from beverage containers, it increases the pressure on the EU to make this mandatory for all countries.   The Scottish Government led the way for the UK, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing in September 2017 that Scotland would implement a deposit return system. This was after two years of tireless campaigning by the ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ coalition, of which the Marine Conservation Society was a founding member. Scotland is now at the stage of designing a suitable system.     In March of this year, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced his plan to introduce a deposit return scheme for England. This is welcome news but the work is far from over. During the upcoming consultation process, certain elements of the drinks and plastics industries which oppose deposit return systems will undoubtedly work to derail efforts to bring in a useful and effective system. Continued efforts are required from campaigners, therefore, to ensure that a fit-for-purpose scheme will actually be implemented.   The best system is one that will give the country the greatest increase in high quality recycling and an associated decrease in litter. It should include, at a minimum, glass, plastic and metal drinks containers of all sizes, as well as providing for the inclusion of other materials such as tetrapaks and new materials. The scheme should also have the option for review and extension in order to ensure that it continues to drive container returns.   It is imperative that Scotland and England coordinate their actions and harmonise the schemes so that a consumer can return a bottle or can in London in exactly the same manner as in Edinburgh. Ideally, Wales and Northern Ireland should introduce similar schemes simultaneously, allowing systems to operate smoothly across the whole of the UK.    The campaigns in Scotland and England have been driven by multiple NGOs working together for a number of years. Recently, however, a number of factors have combined to create a perfect storm of awareness, with calls for change coming from all areas in society.    UK politicians have adopted the rhetoric of wanting to make a difference, with the current government stating that its vision ‘to be the first generation to leave our environment better than we found it'. This is against the backdrop of a difficult socio-political climate, where the focus is firmly on the daily challenges presented by Brexit and there are few good news stories on either the progression or direction of that change.     For over 20 years, the Marine Conservation Society has organised beach cleans and surveys, and the data supplied by their thousands of volunteers played a big part in proving the need for a deposit return scheme. Plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans, and bottle caps always feature high on the list of items collected in any beach clean. Last year alone, during the Great British Beach Clean, volunteers gathered 3,540 plastic bottles, 2,674 cans and 11,154 plastic bottle tops from British beaches, adding up to 57 items of drink-related litter for every 100m surveyed, and 10% of all litter. It is not only these volunteers who understand the scale of the problem: a YouGov survey commissioned by the Marine Conservation Society showed 73% support from the British public for a deposit return scheme.    The importance of the media in highlighting the problems of marine plastics should not be underestimated. Recent watersheds in the national consciousness were Sky’s Ocean Rescue programmes and, in particular, the David Attenborough wildlife documentary, Blue Planet II, which brought the impact of plastic consumption on the marine environment to an audience of millions. 

Across the EU at present, there is little consistency in either policy or practice with regard to deposit return schemes. While a number of Member States have had schemes in place for various kinds of beverage containers for many years, they all function differently, and many countries have no scheme at all. Studies show that deposit return schemes produce high quality material streams for recycling, as well as reducing beverage container-related littering. The upcoming EU legislation to tackle the top 10 litter items most commonly found on beaches provides an ideal opportunity to introduce measures to encourage deposit return schemes for beverage containers in all Member States.

11 April 2018

Seas At Risk, together with its NGO partners in the Rethink Plastic Alliance, has sent an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, challenging the Parliament to move from rhetoric to practice and stop its use of enormous quantities of plastic water bottles.

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10 April 2018

With less than two years to go before the 2020 deadline, urgent action is needed to safeguard European seas and ensure their continued health and productivity, as required by the EU Marine Directive. An EU-wide coalition of NGOs, led by Seas At Risk, proposes a series of concrete actions to help Member States to deliver on their legal commitment to restore our seas to ‘Good Environmental Status’.

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10 April 2018

On 10 April, EU Environment Ministers gathered in Sofia for an informal meeting of the Environment Council to discuss improvements to the implementation of EU environmental law, among other things. Seas At Risk, WeMove and OurFish were there to give voice to the 172,120 EU citizens who believe that the Member States are failing to deliver on their commitment to clean, healthy and ecologically diverse seas by 2020, as required by the EU Marine Directive. A drastic change in implementation efforts is needed, together with strengthened political will, if healthy EU seas are to become a reality in the next two years.

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05 April 2018

The unique citizen science survey Dive Against Debris®, launched by Seas At Risk member, Project AWARE, has removed one million items of rubbish from the ocean. This huge milestone in the fight against marine debris was reached by scuba divers around the world and serves to shine a light on the global marine litter crisis.

Dive Against Debris® was launched in 2011 as part of Project AWARE®’s work to create positive change for the ocean through community action. Since then, it has seen 49,188 volunteer divers from 114 countries take part, in an effort both to clean up the ocean and to amass irrefutable evidence of the problem, with which to convince decision-makers and influence policy change.

Recreational and professional divers have retrieved a diverse array of objects, from sunbeds to batteries and shoes, as well as vast quantities of plastic bags, cutlery and bottles. The data collected captures essential information for scientists seeking to estimate the volume of debris that has sunk to the seafloor. It also supports crucial work to find solutions to save vulnerable marine life and ensure the future of clean and healthy oceans.

This milestone comes at a time of unprecedented focus on the issue of plastic pollution and its impact on ocean health. With scientists estimating that some 20 million tonnes of plastic waste may enter the ocean every year, the United Nations and national governments stepped up their efforts in 2017 to eliminate plastic waste. The European Commission, for example, recently adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics, as part of the transition towards a more circular economy.

With almost 70% of all items reported through Dive Against Debris® being plastics, the project has provided data which is helping to convince decision-makers to adopt more stringent policies on plastics. In December 2017, the Vanuatu government announced a ban on the import and local manufacturing of non-biodegradable plastics. This ban was based on studies done by environmental groups, including local dive centre, Big Blue.

Key Statistics on Dive Against Debris®:

One million pieces of rubbish removed and reported since 2011

49,188 - scuba divers 5,351 - surveys 114 - countries around the world 5,597 - entangled or dead animals 64% - plastic waste 307,064kgs / 676,959lbs - total weight of rubbish collected

Following the unprecedented success of this initiative, Project AWARE® is now asking divers to remove and report one million more pieces of rubbish by the end of 2020, in a bid to highlight the true scale of the marine debris problem. For more information and to get involved visit www.projectaware.org

 

15 March 2018

As the second largest maritime area in the world, France has a significant responsibility to protect marine ecosystems. Despite this, it has yet to adopt an ambitious, sustainable coastal and maritime policy. It is time for French citizens to speak up and insist that France develops a maritime policy that centres on environmental considerations and reflects the limits of marine ecosystems.

Between 26 January and 25 March 2018, the French government is consulting the public on its strategies for the four coastlines and maritime areas of mainland France (North and Normandy, Brittany and Loire, Aquitaine, and Mediterranean). These aim to implement the 2017 National Strategy for the Sea and the Coast, taking into account local specificities. As part of this consultation, a participatory online platform provides citizens with information on maritime and coastal issues, proposes a vision for the future of the French coastline and seas, and asks for suggestions to improve coastlines and maritime areas. France Nature Environnement, a French environmental organisation and member of Seas At Risk, has formulated five proposals to ensure that environmental considerations are at the core of the four strategies.

French seas and coastlines support many uses and are subject to a wide range of pressures, including overfishing, coastal construction and port extensions, land pollution, and climate change. The expansion of economic activities, combined with growing demographic pressure, increases the risk of damage to the coastal and marine environment. The economic development mistakes of the past 70 years, which have led to the current ecological and climate crisis, must inform the choices that will be made for existing and emerging coastal and maritime activities.

France Nature Environnement supports strong measures to preserve Marine Protected Areas, support sustainable fishing techniques, combat the harassment of wild dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea, preserve the coastline from erosion and urbanisation, and fight against air pollution from shipping.

Discover and support the France Nature Environnement proposal for each coastal and maritime area:

FNE press release on the public consultation

Normandie et Hauts-de-France

Bretagne et Pays de la Loire

Nouvelle Aquitaine

Corse, Occitanie et Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

15 March 2018

On 5th March, the European Policy Centre, together with the Mission of Norway to the European Union, hosted the Policy Dialogue Plastics and Oceans: How can Europe end further discharge into the oceans? Seas At Risk’s Marine Litter Policy Officer, Emma Priestland, was in attendance, to share the message that ocean plastics are not an impossible problem to solve, provided immediate action is taken. Several solutions are already available to make this happen.

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09 March 2018

For the third year in a row, Fundació ENT and Sciaena (member organisations of Seas At Risk), together with Ecologistas en Acción (a major Spanish environmental NGO), have compared and analysed European Commission reports on EU fisheries catch limits to assess their adherence to the legal requirement to stop overfishing. Analysis of the reports from 2015 to 2018 highlights some concerns about the methodology used by the Commission, and raises the possibility that the number of stocks assessed as being fished sustainably may have been overestimated each year.

In order to allow the recovery of fish stocks to sustainable levels, the Common Fisheries Policy requires an end to overfishing by 2015 where possible, with a progressive, incremental end to overfishing for all fish stocks by 2020 at the latest. At present, four years after the Common Fisheries Policy entered into force, it remains difficult to ascertain the real number of stocks that are no longer overfished in the EU (i.e. the number of agreed fishing limits in line with scientific advice based on the maximum sustainable yield).

Since December 2014, following the annual quota decisions by the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers, the European Commission publishes a list of stocks fished in the north-east Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea for which the agreed catch limits for the following year are considered sustainable and ‘in line with the maximum sustainable yield’. These publications are essential to measuring progress towards ending overfishing, particularly for EU Fisheries Ministers when agreeing fishing limits. However, they contain significant inconsistencies that prevent comprehensive evaluation of the real progress made.

More specifically, several stocks that were reported as being fished sustainably (or in Commission terms, ‘in line with the maximum sustainable yield’) in 2015, 2016 and 2017 are no longer in that category in 2018. For instance, since last year, eight catch limits have lost their ‘in line with the maximum sustainable yield’ status. By contrast, the Commission reports that 15 new stocks are fished sustainably in 2018, despite earlier reports listing five out of those 15 stocks at least once in previous years. This trend of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ is not in line with the Common Fisheries Policy requirement for progressive and incremental movement towards sustainable exploitation rates.

According to the Commission, the total number of stocks that are fished sustainably is 36 for 2015, 38 for 2016, 47 for 2017 and 53 for 2018. However, according to the analysis published by Fundació ENT, Sciaena and Ecologistas en Acción, these numbers are not entirely correct, and the number of stocks sustainably fished and ‘in line with the maximum sustainable yield’ has, in fact, been overestimated. In their analysis, the organisations detail the reasons for such overestimation and conclude that Commission reports must incorporate substantial improvements.

It is remarkable that numerous fishing limits continue to be set above sustainable limits despite the looming 2020 deadline to end overfishing. In order to safeguard the future of EU fisheries, Member State Fisheries Ministers must re-focus their efforts on ending overfishing, in line with the Common Fisheries Policy.

09 March 2018

Fishing activities taking place in French waters pose a serious threat to the common dolphin (Delphinus Delphis), a protected species under French and international law. During the winter of 2017, about 4,000 common dolphins died at sea in the Bay of Biscay due to fishing activities. Since the beginning of 2018, 300 strandings of small dead cetaceans have been reported on the French Atlantic coast, 80% of which were common dolphins. It is possible that some of the boats responsible for maiming and killing dolphins were fishing in Natura 2000 Marine Protected Areas at the time. Seas At Risk member, France Nature Environnement, is alarmed by the French government’s failure to act and asks that it takes the necessary measures to stop this massacre.

The common dolphin is often the victim of the pelagic trawl fishing commonly practiced at this time of year off the French coast. According to the Pelagis Observatory at the National Commission for Scientific Research, in 2017, 90% of stranded dolphins bore the marks of fishing gear and nets, holes from boat hooks, and mutilations inflicted during release from nets. Only a small share of the dolphins who die at sea are stranded on the coast. With 80% known to sink and decompose in the sea, it is certain that the total number of dolphins killed is significantly underestimated. The entire French Atlantic coast continues to be affected by these disastrous effects of fishing.

It is likely that some of this deadly fishing activity takes place in Natura 2000 Marine Protected Areas. This is in violation of EU law, specifically the provision of the Habitats Directive which states that activities that adversely affect a protected habitat and its ‘typical species’, such as dolphins, should be prohibited.

France Nature Environnement is calling on the French government to:

Ban pair and pelagic trawling during bass reproduction season in Natura 2000 protected sites, where dolphins share the same habitat. The ban would drastically reduce indirect impact of fisheries on dolphins, allowing in parallel the reproduction of the bass. Take the necessary measures to enforce Article 6 of EU Regulation 812/2004 on incidental catches of cetaceans in fisheries, which requires Member States to send a complete annual report to the Commission on the mortality of cetaceans, including dolphins. Currently, France does not adhere to this requirement, and France Nature Environnement is considering lodging an official complaint of non-compliance with the European Commission. Establish an effective research programme on the use of deterrent systems for pelagic fishing. Such systems would reduce mortality by scaring cetaceans away from fishing gear.

French local associations, Ré Nature Environnement and Nature Environnement 17 (both of which are members of France Nature Environnement), have produced a briefing document which outlines the history of the catastrophic consequences of fishing activities for dolphins and seeks to increase recognition of the marks made by fishing gear on cetaceans.

05 February 2018

On 16th January, as part of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the European Parliament adopted a strong resolution on international ocean governance, including a very welcome commitment to move towards ending the use of heavy fuel oil by ships in the Arctic.

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