As European political parties prepare for the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, Seas At Risk publishes its ‘Manifesto for the sea, calling on politicians to put the protection of seas and oceans high on their election programmes.

The deep sea is one of Earth’s most precious ecosystems, with a vital role to play in the health of our planet, yet we are squandering it for an outdated drive towards boundless growth. This is the stark warning from Seas At Risk, together with 50 NGOs from across the globe, to the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

On 5 June, the Belgian Ministries of Economics and Environment organised an international stakeholder workshop to discuss Belgium’s position on deep-sea mining. Belgium is currently in the spotlight of international deep-sea mining development, as a sponsoring state to an exploration contract signed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in 2013 with the Belgian company Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR). The contract is for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, an area more than twice the size of Belgium.

The European Parliament recently approved the own initiative report on sustainable and competitive aquaculture. Regrettably, MEPs failed to take the opportunity to develop a new vision for European aquaculture, instead choosing to simply reiterate the conclusions from EU reports published five years ago.

The next EU legislative period will start in July 2019, from which time the European Parliament will no longer use single-use plastic bottles at its facilities and meetings. On 11 June, the Bureau of the Parliament agreed to include new conditions in its upcoming canteen and catering contract, disallowing the delivery of plastic bottles to Parliament facilities. Instead, the number of drinking water fountains will be extended to facilitate the use of reusable bottles at Parliament facilities.

On Saturday 23 June 2018, a collision between a tanker and the jetty in the Port of Rotterdam - Europe’s biggest seaport, resulted in a heavy fuel oil (HFO) spill. Despite the immediate mitigation actions taken by the crew of the vessel and resources on-shore, 217 tonnes of HFO are estimated to have spilled from the fuel tank. 

The European Parliament has, for the first time, rejected a draft delegated act of the European Commission. The proposed legislation would have enacted the inadequate measures put forward by Belgium to protect its marine ecosystems. In rejecting the draft, the European Parliament sent a strong signal to Member States and the Commission that European nature protection laws must be taken seriously.

President Tajani’s response to NGOs’ challenge to ban single-use plastics from the European Parliament is disappointing, and serves to highlight that the Parliament could do considerably more to reduce waste generation. The imminent renewal of its catering contract, however, presents an ideal opportunity to implement real change.

The European Parliament recently approved new legislation on the management of fisheries in the North Sea. The multi-annual plan (MAP) is the second such programme, after the earlier Baltic plan. Both bills undermine the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, a central tenet of which is to end overfishing.

In an unprecedented move to tackle marine litter, the European Commission launched the long-awaited proposal for legislation to reduce the flow of single use plastics and fishing gear into the seas. The initiative focuses on the 10 most commonly found single use plastics and fishing gear, which together represent around 70% of marine litter found on Europe’s beaches.