The clock is ticking. The 2020 deadline to deliver healthy oceans is fast approaching. Seas At Risk, together with several NGOs and thousands of  European citizens, is determined to ensure that European Ministers do not ignore the deadline to which they have already made a legal commitment. With a joint NGO call on governments to take 20 measures to progress to healthy seas by 2020, Seas At Risk has launched the “Save #OurBlueLung” campaign to galvanise a strong push towards a bluer future.

We all have a deep connection to the sea. Millions of us live beside the sea, some among us grew up on tales of the wonders of the underwater world, while still others dream of endless horizons and faraway voyages. But the ocean does not just feed our imaginations, it feeds our lungs, providing us with a crucial 50% or more of the oxygen we breathe. It sustains and empowers us. It is #OurBlueLung.

For decades we have ignored the destruction happening beneath the surfaces of our seas, preferring to think of the ocean as an endlessly resilient space whose immensity protects it from human overexploitation and pollution. Recently, however, the stories of destruction and loss have built to an unassailable crescendo, from plastic toys built in the USSR washing up on the coasts of Scotland to scientific accounts of plastic bags found 10,898 metres deep in the Mariana Trench, and images of some of the thousands of animals killed every year by human heedlessness.

People have woken up. They now roundly reject the idea that the sea is ours to use and abuse as we have done to the land, through overexploitation and the destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems, leading to the near-extinction of many animal species.

The law itself is our strongest ally in the battle to save #OurBlueLung. In 2008, the EU signed one of the most advanced laws in the world for the protection of our seas and ocean. The Marine Directive commits EU countries to do everything in their power to achieve clean and healthy seas by the year 2020. This objective covers everything from preserving marine biodiversity and ending overfishing, to halting chemical and plastic pollution and phasing out underwater noise pollution.

Ten years after its adoption, this legal commitment has yet to be fulfilled. Without a long-term vision from politicians, the overexploitation and destruction of our seas will continue. We ask them to take urgent action to meet the upcoming 2020 deadline. Now is the time for a final sprint. Now we must Save #OurBlueLung!