It’s springtime, and with the improving weather comes the annual beach cleaning season! Seas At Risk member organisations across Europe have activated their own membership and organised their annual beach cleans.
This year was a particularly busy one, with a third of SAR members organising some activity based around getting citizens to play a role in cleaning up their marine environment. The events are not just aimed at improving the visual and ecological environment of the beaches that are targeted – many of the organisation also collect data on the waste they collect, to better inform policy makers when they try to tackle them at source. They also seek to increase the awareness of the general public to the damage we do to the marine environment through careless and excess use of resources, particularly single use plastics.In Denmark, the Danish Society for Nature Conservation has set a new record for participants in their annual waste collection, with over 123,000 students participating in their coastal collections in April. They collected a record amount of waste, half of which was plastic. In France, the Surfrider Foundation has released the results of its five year study (French) of marine litter waste found in beach clean-ups there. An overwhelming 80% of waste identified contained plastic of some sort. Their Ocean Initiatives programme aims to help citizens get involved in the fight. Greece saw two SAR members active, with the Mediterranean SOS Network assembling over 200 supporters, including world swimming champion Spyros Giannioti, to clean up the beaches of the port town of Piraeus. Meanwhile, Archipelagos have been cleaning up waste and sunken boats that have accumulated as a result of the refugee crisis off Greece’s coast. The Netherlands are looking to the future, as the North Sea Foundation has set the date of their clean-up for early August, when they hope to collect over 1.2 million plastic waste items. They profiled a report from their new project leader, Marijke Boonstra, who has been conducting her first beach survey. She located about 270 items over a mere 100 metres. The Wadden Sea Association were emphasising the fun at their annual event, with their clean up in April designed to clear the beach areas for the birds nesting there. Norway’s Naturvernforbundet followed on from their 7 May event with tips and advice on how to limit one’s own waste impact. In Spain, Retorna brought their focus on deposit return schemes to the clean-up cause. After participating in the Valencian beach clean with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and others, they estimated that 75% of the waste located was plastic bottles and drinks cans. For the UK, two SAR members have been working away for cleaner beaches. The Marine Conservation Society have had their most successful ‘Great British Beach Clean’ yet, with over 6035 volunteering for it, the most ever in their 22 year history. Surfers Against Sewage delivered another record breaker, with 231 beaches across the UK cleaned in mid-April, with 8000 volunteers finding all sorts of debris, including a set of false teeth! They are also profiling their ‘Mini Beach Clean’ idea, to allow individuals to play a role in the fight against marine litter at any time in the year. Internationally, our partners in Project Aware took a slightly alternative option, marking this year’s Earth Day (22 April) with their Dive Against Debris programme, which involves divers cleaning up the actual sea floor and ocean itself from some of the worst items of marine litter.
London - The shipping sector’s response to the Paris climate agreement was left in disarray after governments attending a meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) today were unable to even agree on a work plan to develop a shipping ‘fair share’ contribution to the goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5/2°C.
Between 4 and 7 April, over 450 activists committed to protecting the ocean and climate responded to the call made by various associations including Seas At Risk member Surfrider and many others.
Brussels - The EU’s Fisheries Council went on until the early morning today to agree on new North Sea and North-East Atlantic quotas for 2016, and once again failed to end overfishing, despite their commitments under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
Paris - The absence of any reference to international aviation and shipping emissions in the Paris Agreement casts doubts over who is responsible for reining in their skyrocketing emissions, green NGOs Seas At Risk, Carbon Market Watch and Transport & Environment have said. While the Agreement endorses a target of 1.5°C, this cannot be achieved unless these two sectors urgently rein in their emissions.
Paris - The Oceans were front and centre of the climate debate this week at the COP21 climate talks in Paris. Special events both inside and outside of the main negotiation zone highlighted the crucial role played by the world’s seas in regulating our climate and mitigating the effect our greenhouse gas emissions are having.
Brussels –SAR has sent a letter to the European Commission supporting the inclusion of a marine litter reduction target in the new Circular Economy Package.
The aviation and shipping sectors are set to be exempt from targeted CO2 emissions cuts in the December Paris climate agreement, according to the latest draft deal. This is an irresponsible U-turn, say environmental groups Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment. CO2 emissions from the two sectors are set to grow by up to 250% by 2050, making attempts to limit global warming to 2°C all but impossible.
Seas At Risk's Swiss member organisation OceanCare is working to raise awareness of the deleterious effects of ocean noise on marine mammals. In particular they have been lobbying the United States' and Greek governments to prevent seismic testing that could seriously harm cetacean life.
An EU level 50% marine litter reduction target for 2020, widely accepted as both necessary and feasible, must be coupled with affordable measures to ensure its success. Retorna have been working over the last five years to show how a Deposit and Return System (DRS) for drinks containers is one of the best tools to help achieve this goal.
Brussels - Spanish waste NGO network Retorna has joined Seas At Risk as their 26th member organisation.
Retorna is a Spanish network of 17 NGOs, consumer and environmental groups, trade unions and recyclers that works to realise a zero waste future and to stop the flow of waste from our society into the Mediterranean. They believe that no waste should be landfilled, incinerated or end up in our forests, rivers or seas.
Spain has far to go if it is to achieve this goal. Only 15% of waste is recycled and barely 9% is composted. Of the 51 million beverage containers put on the market daily, 28 million are sent to landfill or incineration and four million disappear, usually into the environment as litter. In marine litter surveys they make up between 30 and 50%. As a result, Retorna is focused on creating and promoting deposit return schemes as the most efficient and sustainable solution to the problem. The platform also promotes beach clean-up operations and consumer educational projects through its website.
Seas At Risk looks forward to working together with Retorna in our fight against marine litter.
Brussels - The Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament has significantly improved an initial proposal from the Commission on the Baltic Sea multiannual plan adding objectives to bring stocks to sustainable levels and setting fishing levels that will allow for such stock recovery in accordance with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).