Brussels, 18th December 2006. Environment ministers attending today’s EU Environment Council meeting in Brussels have agreed a draft version of the EU’s Marine Strategy Directive that spells tragedy for the marine environment.

Brussels, 18th December 2006. Environment ministers attending today’s EU Environment Council meeting in Brussels have agreed a draft version of the EU’s Marine Strategy Directive that spells tragedy for the marine environment.

Ignoring demands from the European Parliament and other stakeholders for tough action to protect Europe’s vulnerable marine environment, Ministers have chosen instead a heavily qualified approach that combines weak objectives with the absence of a legal requirement to achieve them.

If the Marine Strategy Directive is to have added value in the world of marine environmental regulation then it must contain an unambiguous legally-binding commitment to protect and restore to health Europe’s marine environment. Ministers have chosen instead to "aim at" reaching a set of wholly inadequate targets.

Nowhere is the minister’s lack of ambition more evident than in the case of fisheries, one of the most serious threats to the health of the marine environment. Here the aim is to maintain stocks "within safe biological limits", a reference point originally identified by fisheries scientists as the level below which stocks should never go (or they will likely collapse), and very definitely not a target for a healthy stock or a healthy fishery. The fact that environment ministers are prepared to put their name to this kind of approach bodes very ill indeed for the future of the Directive. Environment ministers must accept that they have a responsibility to protect the environment, including commercial fish species, from damaging fishing activities. Leaving it to their fisheries colleagues is not an option, as will again become clear at tomorrow’s EU Fisheries Council meeting when fisheries ministers again ignore scientific advice and allow the continuation of over-fishing.

References in the draft Directive to avoiding "disproportionate costs" and only undertaking action where "reasonable and practicable" suggest that environment ministers are more concerned about euros and cents than they are the environment. This and the absence or watering down of important previously agreed environmental objectives and principles further compromises the ability of the Marine Strategy Directive to protect Europe’s seas or act as the environment "pillar" of the proposed future EU Maritime Policy.

Seas At Risk will continue to follow the Directive’s progress and will be working with other stakeholders to ensure a strong Directive at the heart of any future EU Maritime Policy.

Seas At Risk press release (18/12/06).
Joint-NGO comment on Council outcome(18/12/06).
Joint-NGO view on MSD "good environmental status" objective (14/11/06).
Presidency MSD proposal to the Council (11/12/06).

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