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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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02 February 2018

The European Commission recently released its proposal for the revision of the Port Reception Facilities Directive. This proposal is vital for the protection of the marine environment, as it aims to prevent the dumping of ships’ waste at sea. Here, Seas At Risk takes a closer look at the two major changes proposed to improve waste delivery in ports: harmonisation of fees, and expansion of the system to include fishing boats.

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02 February 2018

The European Parliament, led by rapporteur Carlos Iturgaiz, is currently analysing the reasons underlying the failure of the EU aquaculture sector to grow at a level consistent with recent global trends (‘Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector: current status and future challenges’). At a Parliamentary hearing on January 11th, several stakeholders, including the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers, General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives-General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union, BirdLife, and Seas At Risk, presented their views on the future development of the EU aquaculture sector.

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30 January 2018

The European Commission has announced its intention to significantly reduce the use of plastic bottles and other single-use plastic items on its premises. All eyes are now on the European Parliament and the European Council to step up and follow suit.  

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11 January 2018

Plastic bottles and bottle caps feature in the top 10 most frequently encountered litter items in the marine environment, rivers and along coastlines. In response, Seas At Risk member Surfrider Foundation Europe launched the awareness campaign Reset Your Habits in 2017. The campaign aims to reduce at-source pollution caused by plastic bottles by replacing these disposable bottles with reusable, sustainable alternatives. In this context, Surfrider recently published its White paper for an ocean free from plastic bottles.

The large-scale pollution caused by plastic items needs to be met with urgent and effective global action. Surfrider’s report looks at the overall cycle of the water bottle and recommends the following actions:

Improve the eco-design of plastic bottles. Reduce the production of plastic bottles, including small volumes. Reduce the distribution of plastic bottles by replacing these with alternatives. Reduce the consumption of plastic bottles by promoting alternatives. Improve the end-of-life management of plastic bottles.

Decision-makers, industry and citizens all have a role to play in making this happen. The EU, in particular, should lead the fight against such pollution by taking ambitious measures in its forthcoming Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy, due in January 2018. Discontinuing single-use plastic items, including bottles, would be a significant step towards addressing the threat posed by plastic pollution.  

06 December 2017

In its new report ‘Tackling overfishing and marine litter’, Seas At Risk undertakes an analysis of fisheries and marine litter measures adopted by Member States under the Marine Directive. While noting some progress, it concludes that much more effort is needed to achieve healthy fish stocks and reduce harm from marine litter by 2020. The report also provides recommendations on the measures needed.

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05 December 2017

On 11 & 12 December, the Fisheries Council will meet to agree fishing quotas for 2018. Ahead of this meeting, Seas At Risk, together with Pew, Oceana, ClientEarth and the Fisheries Secretariat, has called on the Ministers for Fisheries of the EU Member States to follow current scientific advice and take steps to end overfishing.

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28 November 2017

Today Members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament called for a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. Heavy fuel oil is the cheapest marine fuel and accounts for three quarters of all fuel carried in the fuel tanks of ships sailing in the Arctic. Heavy fuel oil is also one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, a waste product of the refining process. It is almost impossible to clean up in the event of a spill, and produces high levels of black carbon when burnt. Black carbon emissions accelerate the melting of Artic ice and contribute to climate change. Given the severe risks that heavy fuel oil poses to polar environments, the international shipping community has already banned its use in the Antarctic. It is now time to extend that ban to the Arctic.

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28 November 2017

Seas At Risk joined 19 other NGOs in a call to fisheries ministers to ban fisheries for adult eel in all EU waters, including fresh water. Due to anthropogenic impacts there has been a dramatic reduction in the European eel in all the EU in the last 30 years, and less than 5% of the stock is left.  Conservation efforts to protect this species have failed up to now. Since 2008 scientists have been advising to close the fisheries, but this has so far been ignored by the Ministers. The state of the European eel got to such critical level that immediate action is necessary to achieve the recovery of the species. A ban on the fishing on adult eels would allow them to spawn as a first step to recovery.

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23 November 2017

Time is ticking. Chances of achieving biologically diverse, clean and healthy seas by 2020 - as required  by the Marine Directive - are decreasing every day if urgent action is not taken. Measures proposed by Member States to achieve this noble commitment are too weak and  lacking in  ambition to  achieve it.  Meanwhile  our seas face increasing pressure.  Action is necessary, now!  

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22 November 2017

With its ‘Blue Growth Strategy’, the European Union aims to boost its aquaculture production, both to meet the growing demand for seafood and to foster economic growth and employment. To this end, the 2014 Common Fisheries Policy contains several measures to stimulate aquaculture, as does the 2014-2020 European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Simultaneously, however, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive obliges all EU Member States to improve the environmental condition of European seas and to reach Good Environmental Status by 2020. Given that excessive nutrient input poses a significant environmental problem in the Baltic Sea, these two policies risk an inherent incompatibility unless carefully managed.  

Early October this year, the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschlands e.V. (German member of SAR) held a small symposium in Kiel, Germany. Here, invited representatives from politics, science, aquaculture industry and environmental organisations discussed political developments at national, regional and EU level, and evaluated the possibilities presented by forms of aquaculture with minimal nutrient input to the Baltic.

Modern aquaculture encompasses many different production methods and target organisms. Farming options include open cage systems in natural waters, pond systems, or closed recirculating facilities operated on land, independent of natural water bodies. Open cage fish aquaculture systems in marine waters present a number of environmental challenges, such as nutrient loss through excess food and faeces, thereby exacerbating eutrophication.

 

The symposium firmly established that the ecological status of the Baltic Sea demands any further nutrient input be minimised. Presentations and subsequent discussions pointed to Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) as the only acceptable method of open cage fish farming in the Baltic. In this method, the nutrients introduced by the farmed fish would be absorbed by a pre-determined amount of mussels, preventing excess nutrients from entering the marine ecosystem. However, IMTA systems have not been tested at full industrial scale and the no-emission theory has yet to be proven in practice.

Land-based recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) seem to promise the best available technology and seem ideally suited to the Baltic region, as they do not introduce further nutrients to marine waters. The polluter’s pays principle is embedded within RAS, with the polluter paying for cleaning and reusing the water, to a large extent. The production of fish close to the consumer market also represents an environmental advantage. However, questions remain about the species farmed, animal welfare, energy requirements, water recycling and technical issues. To date, few RAS facilities produce fish for the open market, as most are pilot or scientific projects whose fish products are too expensive for general sale.

For a semi-enclosed sea such as the Baltic, cooperation among all neighbouring countries is necessary to ensure protection of this important environmental resource. Such regional coordination is a mandatory element of both the Espoo Convention and EU cross-border cooperation. Currently, Denmark is planning 600 square metres of open cage aquaculture facilities in the Kattegat, as well as pioneering land-based RAS. In both cases, cooperation across country borders would benefit the Baltic Sea.

Lastly, the symposium discussed the underlying assumption that aquaculture should fill the gap created by the dwindling wild catch as a result of overfishing and stock loss. If fish were to be seen as a rarely consumed delicacy rather than a product for mass consumption, the quantities needed would be lower, making the marketing of high quality products from land-based production easier.