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.

The EU Marine Directive has been in force for the past 10 years. It requires Member States to take the actions necessary to ‘achieve or maintain good environmental status in the marine environment by the year 2020 at the latest’. Despite growing evidence of the damage caused to marine ecosystems by human activities, Member States continue to procrastinate, ‘trying to better understand the problem’ and ‘monitoring the situation’, at the expense of concrete action. Delays in the implementation of the Directive leave us far short of clean and healthy seas, with a mere two years until the deadline.

This lack of action cannot continue.

Recently, 172,120 thousand EU citizens have signed the Save EU Seas petition petition, calling for stronger political commitment and more urgent action. EU Ministers need to make concrete efforts to reduce pollution, end overfishing and protect at least 30% of EU seas, and work towards achieving ecologically diverse, clean and healthy EU seas by 2020. Although the deadline is looming, with the right political determination and a clear strategy, EU Environment Ministers can still achieve results.

For its part, Seas At Risk, in cooperation with the Coalition Clean Baltic, the Mediterranean Information Office for the Environment, and the Black Sea NGO Network, has developed a series of key recommendations. These, if implemented quickly and correctly, could help Member States to achieve the goal of clean, healthy and ecologically diverse EU seas before the deadline.

Watching and waiting is no longer sufficient: now is the time for action.