On paper, more than 10% of European seas are protected from the impact of human activities. The reality is quite different, however, according to managers of marine protected areas, who speak regularly with Seas At Risk members.

Recent scientific findings point to another looming threat to our seas. Marine litter from aquaculture contributes to the spread of invasive alien species, putting pressure on native biodiversity and habitats, as well as farmed species. Seas At Risk has proposed a set of measures to tackle the problem.

Environmental organisations call for real measures in areas protected on paper. ClientEarth, Coalition Clean Baltic, Oceana, Seas at Risk and WWF warn that marine life across Europe is being harmed because member states are neglecting to actively manage marine protected areas. This puts at risk much of the biodiversity within the marine Natura 2000 network of protected sites, which protects on paper around 10% of waters across the European Union.

On 23 October, the European Parliament voted in favour of the Single Use Plastic Directive, with an overwhelming majority of MEPs supporting the European Commission’s plan to reduce pollution from single-use plastics. 

As the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) closed  on 26 October in London, the Clean Arctic Alliance and indigenous groups welcomed the support given by member states to commence work on developing a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters.

Two weeks of talks in London on what measures the global shipping sector should take to reduce its climate impact have failed to make progress. Governments meeting at the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) were supposed to start delivering on their April commitment to decarbonise international shipping but instead became bogged down in procedural matters. The Clean Shipping Coalition said the total lack of urgency was in stark contrast to the impassioned pleas for action made to delegates by the authors of the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

On 25 October 2018, the European Parliament approved the multiannual plan for fish stocks in the Western Waters (north-east Atlantic), even though this plan facilitates overfishing. In failing to ensure the long-term environmental sustainability of fish stocks, the plan goes against the fundamental objective of the Common Fisheries Policy to end overfishing.

At the 15 October meeting of the Fisheries Council, on fishing limits for the Baltic Sea, the Fisheries Ministers again agreed to continue overfishing. They allow a catch of 24,112 tonnes of cod from the eastern Baltic cod stock, 44% higher than scientists advise and an incredible 33% higher than fishing industry demands.

Mid-October marked an important milestone in the EU’s efforts to tackle marine litter in its waters, with European Parliament committees voting on two crucial legislative tools in the Commission’s fight against marine litter. Both votes showed strong support for the proposed Directives, which must now be secured in the subsequent legislative process.

On 18 September, 40 NGOs across Europe (including Seas At Risk and some of its members) sent a letter to Commissioners Karmenu Vella and Cecilia Malmström, calling on the European Commission to refrain from providing financial aid for the construction of new fishing vessels in nine European outermost regions belonging to France, Portugal and Spain.

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