Oceans have been rising up the political agenda over the past few years. Last week during  Lisbon’s Blue Week, over 70 ministers met to discuss the balance between new economic activities in our oceans and how best they be protected. At the same time EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella was in town to announce a new public consultation on ocean governance that will run until September. Further north in Bonn, the UNFCCC climate conference was working on the negotiating text for the COP21 Paris climate talks at the end of the year, including discussions on ocean acidification and greenhouse emissions from shipping.

But it is the G7 meeting in Bavaria that finishes today that best illustrates how high oceans have risen on the political agenda. At the insistence of Germany’s Angela Merkel, ocean protection is on the agenda for the meeting of the leaders of the world’s 7 major economies. In advance of it, the national science academies of the G7 countries published a report on the impact of human activities on marine systems with recommendations for future action. Seas At Risk and an alliance of other NGOs have also engaged with the process, and have produced a series of key recommendations on the issues discussed by the G7. We advocate post-2015 sustainable development goals with ambitious targets to conserve oceans, an international agreement to protect high seas biodiversity, the reduction of marine litter, and halting the deep-sea mining gold rush.

For Seas At Risk, of course, every day is Oceans Day! With this in mind, we have recently brought together many of the key NGO players in European marine environmental protection to create the Blue Manifesto, a series of key priorities for the European Commission to pursue during its mandate if we are to hope to get our seas in a healthy state, especially in the face of increasing exploitation of their resources.

The increasing push for ‘Blue Growth’, especially within the EU, where it is viewed as a key part of a European job creation drive, has not yet been met with an adequate and equal push for ocean protection in the face of all this potential economic activity. New areas of exploration, such as deep-sea mining, stand in stark opposition to developing EU commitments to create a more circular economy that uses recycling, innovative design and resource efficiency to avoid destructive extractive activities.

The Manifesto urges the Commission to make progress on 5 key marine environment areas, which we jointly believe are the key focus:

  1. Ensure Good Environmental Status by 2020 through a strong implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive;
  2. Complete an ecologically coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas by 2020;
  3. End overfishing and allow for the recovery of fish stocks, while minimising the impact of fishing on the wider marine environment;
  4. Ensure a sustainable blue economy that protects and maintains the diversity, productivity, resilience, and core functions of marine ecosystems; and
  5. Strengthen international fisheries and maritime governance.

Seas At Risk and our allies believe that the recent drive for less intervention under the guise of ‘better regulation’ poses a threat to the considerable achievements made by the EU and its member states to protect their coasts and seas to date. As new economic areas of exploitation open up (such as deep-sea mining and marine energy production) and other expand (such as aquaculture), we must redouble our efforts to ensure ocean ecosystems are protected for future generations.

You can follow the over 400 events organised for this year’s World Ocean Day, or even list an event of your own on their website. You can see what Seas At Risk’s member organisations will be doing on the day through their twitter pages, all available here.

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