Three days before the COP 15 on biodiversity in Canada, Seas At Risk joined forces with BLOOM and 11 other NGOs to send a crucial message on the ocean, biodiversity and climate to French President Emmanuel Macron in Le Monde.
Mr Macron, have you lost your memory?
You’re not the only one. We are all suffering from collective amnesia. We’ve forgotten what nature was like before we committed to destroying it, day after day for centuries gone-by. We’ve forgotten that a few decades ago, fishers in Brittany were catching cod over a metre long, that the waters of the world were teeming with tens of millions of whales, dolphins and turtles, that the seabed was covered with animal-filled forests – yes, real marine forests made up of animals: gorgonians, cold water corals and sponges that served as nurseries, food storage and shelter for breathtaking biological diversity. We’ve forgotten that nature was healthy, complex and beautiful and that we’ve turned weapons of mass destruction, originally invented to wipe out human life, against the ocean and animals alike. Armed with GPS, radars, sonars and unbreakable nylon nets, fishing vessels have waged war on ocean life and exterminated more than 90% of large fish such as swordfish, tuna, groupers, rays and sharks since 1950. In the Channel, fish weighing over four kilograms have declined in number by more than 97% since the pre-industrial era. In total, industrial fishing exploits a surface area four times greater than that of agriculture, while fish represent less than 10% of the world’s animal protein. Underwater deforestation and the depopulation of the ocean are on track to transform 70% of our planet into a world of silence.
Mr Macron, you are like us; you have forgotten the once staggering beauty of the world.
But you have not forgotten the commitment you made in Brest in February 2022 to implement the European objective to protect 30% of the ocean from now until 2030, of which a third comes under ‘strict protection’, in the knowledge that the full protection of marine ecosystems will allow for their spectacular restoration: in five to ten years, the fish biomass will jump by up to 670%, the diversity of species by 20%, marine habitats thereby regaining structure, complexity and richness.
Today in France, so-called marine ‘protected’ areas are not protected at all.
It is possible to fish in these areas with high-impact industrial apparatus that scrape the sea bottom, such as demersal seining or bottom trawling, one of the most destructive and least selective fishing methods of all. Truly protected areas prohibiting industrial activities only represent 0.005% of our Channel, North Sea and Atlantic coastline and 0.094% of our Mediterranean coastline. Such a low ratio is a disgrace to France, which should be exemplary in terms of marine protection since we are the first European maritime power and the second in the world according to the size of our exclusive economic zone.
Mr President, the Doomsday Clock is ticking for the planet.
Life needs to replenish itself. Nature needs to exhale. Humans to draw breath.
The ocean produces half of the oxygen on Earth: it is our lung and the life support for our planet. To protect the ocean is to protect all of us collectively.
Show the rest of the world that in France, too, ‘to protect’ means ‘to shelter, defend and protect’ and not ‘trawl, extract and exploit.’
Before the COP15 on biological diversity which will take place in Montreal from 7th December, you must make it known that France complies with the international definition of a ‘Marine Protected Area’: announce the ban on industrial activities, including bottom trawling, in all French Marine Protected Areas, as well as the ‘strict’ protection of 10% of our waters.
It is the demand of more than 300 international scientists and hundreds of thousands of European citizens.
Posted on: 5 December 2022