The European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) this week launched a new report on ‘Marine Sustainability in an age of changing Oceans and Seas’.

The report was released in Brussels at the Royal Academy for Science and the Arts of Belgium, home of the EASAC Brussels office. EASAC has been working since 2001 to build science into EU policy, by bringing together national scientific research institutions and giving scientific analysis and context to EU legislative processes. They came together with the European Commission’s in house research team, the Joint Research Council. The JRC works to give impartial scientific analysis on various aspects of EU policy and has a staff of over 3000.

The two organisations came together to prepare the report in light of the increasing level of human activity taking place in and on the seas. As the report itself states, 3 billion people worldwide depend on the oceans for their livelihoods and over the past ten years there has been an increased focus on marine and maritime governance both within and outside the EU. Yet we still know less about the ocean depths than we do about some parts of outer space.

A number of the authors of the report were speaking at the launch, as were MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos and Seas At Risk Deputy Director Ann Dom. Many of the speakers welcomed the report as an important collaborative and holistic approach to promote a greater understanding of our seas. Ms. Dom focused on the need for an ecosystem based approach in EU policy making, but noted that definitions of such an approach can be very different coming at marine science from a blue growth viewpoint. She stressed the need for a more precautionary approach than that being applied currently, with a focus on a truly circular economy that could undermine the need for further disruption of the marine environment by new economic activities like deepsea mining.

The report itself covers a number of different areas, including the effects of increase greenhouse gasses on our oceans, the effectiveness of current EU marine policies such as the Integrated Maritime Policy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Common Fisheries Policy, and the effectiveness of the network of marine protected areas. Throughout, it stresses the need for better integration, and the addition of relevant scientific data during implementation (for example, the MSFD currently contains no mention of climate change or ocean acidification).

There is also a list of recommendations for future action. These included a better adherence to scientific advice in the Common Fisheries Policy, increased research into pelagic habitats, a move away from consumption of animals near the top of the marine food chain and moves to ensure effective ecosystem-based management.

You can read the full text of the report here.

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