On World Oceans Day, the European Parliament voted on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, confirming and in some cases strengthening the original ambition of the European Commission in protecting marine life and ecosystems. The vote represents a step towards achieving a healthy ocean by 2030.  

The vote in Plenary was not an easy one. At stake were commitments to tackle ocean pressures from harmful fishing techniques or deep-sea mining, as well as proposals to better manage and designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In fact, conservative MEPs from the European People’s Party and Renew Europe attempted to water down the environmental ambition agreed by the Environment Committee. The phasing-out of harmful fishing techniques, particularly bottom-trawling, in MPAs and sensitive coastal areas was one of the most contentious topics.  

Significant points in the vote included: a target to protect 30% of the ocean, with at least 10% strictly protected, and the explicit request to ban bottom-trawling in MPAs and sensitive coastal areas. 

The positive vote again demonstrates that this European Parliament is an ally in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. With the Council already backing the Biodiversity Strategy, all eyes now turn to the European Commission, which is responsible for turning words into action.  

The European Parliament also took a strong stand on the restoration law. This new and upcoming legislation aims to restore EU degraded habitats, and it is due to be proposed by the European Commission by the end of the year. Also on this front, the Parliament confirmed the Commissions’ ambition. The combination of the restoration law, biodiversity strategy, fisheries action plan and their ambition will play a crucial role in achieving a healthy ocean by 2030.

This autumn, the Commission is due to present a Fisheries Action Plan, which may include the engagement to shape future legislation. The pressure to stop bottom-trawling in MPAs and in sensitive coastal areas is now not only from European citizens through  the citizens’ petition recently launched by the NGOs Seas At Risk, Oceana and Our Fish, but is also at the explicit request of the European Parliament, substantially increasing its chances of becoming reality.