26 March 2020

Depletion of fish populations, habitat destruction, bycatch of sensitive species, water pollution… Wild fisheries is one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss at sea, according to the 2019 UN IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity. Despite recognition of the issue, however, the latest leaked draft of the upcoming Farm-to-Fork Strategy [1] by the European Commission pays little attention to the harmful environmental impacts of seafood production.

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10 March 2020

The European Commission recently launched its new Circular Economy Action Plan, as announced in the European Green Deal. As an improvement on the previous circular economy plan, which focused mainly on promoting recycling, the new circular economy now prioritises action on resource-efficient, energy-efficient and toxic-free products as well as waste prevention measures.

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07 June 2019

What better way to raise public awareness of the challenges faced by our seas and coastlines than by sailing the seas? Staff of new Seas At Risk member, Ecologistas en Accion, will shortly set sail for 1,000 miles on the Diosa Maat, stopping at ports in Northern Spain to inform thousands of citizens of the state of our seas and the problems inherent in high levels of unplanned and unsustainable tourism. The tour will give citizens the opportunity to make their voices heard and to call on policy makers to increase their efforts to tackle these coastal challenges.   

Two issues are at the heart of this sailing campaign. The first is the wide range of human pressures exerted on our seas and ocean, which sees biodiversity loss increasing while overfishing depletes Spanish marine reserves and alters ecosystems. The Save Our Seas petition (launched jointly with environmental organisations across Europe) will be promoted during the campaign, seeking to collect thousands of signatures from tourists and Spanish residents alike, in a bid to pressure politicians to honour their legal commitment to making European seas healthy by 2020.

The second issue that Ecologistas en Accion will address during the sailing campaign is the phenomenon of excessive tourism. Current related problems are unregulated building and frequent sewage pollution. As a favourite destinations of highly polluting cruise lines, Spain experiences coastal air quality impacts and associated health conditions among residents. A recent study calculated that luxury cruise giant Carnival Corporation emits 10 times more air pollution (SOx) than all of Europe’s cars. Ecologistas en Accion seeks to raise awareness of the importance of local community action to balance tourists and residents, as well as highlighting the role of politicians at local and international level in setting out clear rules for clean maritime transport and reduced air pollution.

Citizens must be aware of what is at stake in their environment. Small lifestyle changes at an individual level can build to make a real difference, while a better informed population can exert important pressure on politicians to tackle environmental problems ambitiously and with greater vision.

06 June 2019

3, 2, 1… World Oceans Day 2019! On Saturday 8 June, Seas At Risk members, together with thousands of activists, volunteers and citizens across Europe, will celebrate World Oceans Day.

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06 June 2019

Portuguese NGO and Seas At Risk member, Sciaena, together with the Marine and Environmental Research Centre (CIMA), recently held a seminar on the topic of changing legislation of plastic packaging in the EU and tackling rising plastic pollution. The seminar, titled ‘Portugal and the reduction of single-use plastics’, took place on 3 June at the University of Algarve. Structured according to the circular value chain, the seminar followed the full lifecycle of plastic, featuring speakers from the manufacturing sector and the recycling industry, as well as retailers, government administrators, environmental organisations and the academic research community. It also included panels on legislation. The event was intended to bring together a diverse group of Portuguese stakeholders and to create a national forum to discuss the problem of plastic pollution in relation to the environment. It also opened a discussion of how new EU legislation will be implemented nationally and translated into action so as to reduce society’s reliance on single-use plastics.

Sectoral stakeholders’ and government agencies’ action plans to tackle the plastic crisis were presented and discussed within the framework of the implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive. At the event, stakeholders and participants expressed their willingness to work towards achieving circular plastic consumption by reducing, reusing and supporting more transparent and efficient recycling processes. There was also a clear commitment to meet again and present their progress.

Presentations and discussions focused firstly on the Single-Use Plastics Directive, particularly the legislative hurdles to correctly implement the legislation in all Member States. The need for additional regulations – and an overhaul of existing ones - to achieve the goals of the Directive were explained, e.g. food packaging requirements. Deposit Refund Systems (DRS) were frequently cited as an example of efficient implementation, with the progressive regulation on the introduction of a DRS approved by the Portuguese Parliament in 2018 proving a useful live example. Environmental organisations were not alone in highlighting the importance of DRS schemes, with the plastic industry itself pointing to the need for such initiatives. This was illustrated by polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, which should contain at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025 (calculated as an average for all PET bottles placed on the market in the territory of that Member State). These goals cannot yet be achieved in Europe, as much of the plastic litter collected is exported, with the remainder being of insufficient volume and quality to be made available on the market. Giving plastic an inherent value throughout the whole lifecycle means that DRS systems improve the availability and quality of recycled materials and pave the way for achieving the Directive’s goals.

This was Sciaena’s first event as part of NGO efforts to tackle marine litter. While it intends to focus on specific issues for future seminars - such as DRS schemes, microplastics or fishing gear - this event demonstrated the usefulness of taking a broad and inclusive approach to stakeholder engagement. After all, the plastic pollution problem was created by our entire society, from producers to consumers, thus our entire society will be needed to solve it.

05 June 2019

Seas At Risk has extended its network in the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea, welcoming two new member organisations: Ecologistas en Accion and Friends of the Black Sea. These additions bring the number of Seas At Risk members to 32, across 16 European countries.

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05 June 2019

For Seas At Risk and its members, every day is World Oceans Day, as we constantly strive to defend the marine world. World Oceans Day, however, provides an important opportunity to speak out a little louder and remind our policy makers of the urgent action needed to tackle the pressures on the ocean. Similarly, it showcases the depth of feeling that European citizens have for their ocean, an ocean that provides crucial benefits such as food and resources, climate regulation, recreational services and the production of more than half of the oxygen we breathe.

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17 May 2019

Our planet is facing not only climate breakdown but an ecological collapse. Our lifestyles see us overexploit our limited natural resources and ignore the collateral damage to the natural world on which our entire existence depends.  

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10 May 2019

An important new independent study, “Impact of slow steaming for different types of ships carrying bulk cargo”, commissioned jointly by Seas At Risk and Transport and Environment, has been published and clearly demonstrates the economic viability of reducing ship speeds to cut shipping GHG emissions.

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10 May 2019

On the eve of the European elections, Seas At Risk member, Surfrider Foundation Europe, is pleased to share the results of its recent consultation with European citizens, Voice for the Ocean

This consultation ran from June 2018 to January 2019. It aimed to amplify citizens’ key messages on ocean protection by asking them to choose the topics they want to see prioritised by the EU institutions in the coming mandate to protect our ocean. 

More than 40 partner organisations/networks across Europe actively supported the consultation and over 7,000 citizens from 21 Member States responded. Of the eight topics covered in the consultation (ocean literacy, climate change, oil extraction at sea, sustainable tourism, plastic pollution, maritime transport, marine renewable energy and water quality) three were identified as top priorities: microplastic pollution, offshore drilling and shipping. 

For each topic, respondents were asked what they felt would be the most appropriate EU response, from market restrictions to information, labelling, research or awareness-raising campaigns. 

Most respondents are calling on the EU to ban the intentional adding of microplastics to products (cosmetics, paints, detergents, etc). As far as offshore oil and gas platforms are concerned, respondents are asking the EU to keep the oil in the ground, foster energy transition, and place a moratorium on offshore platforms. Finally, with respect to shipping, respondents overwhelmingly support the idea of a label on products to promote sustainably shipped products.


Surfrider now beckons EU citizens to the polling booths, reminding them that the EU has a key role to play in protecting their seas and coastlines. It also asks the EU institutions to consider these citizens’ views on ocean protection in their coming mandate and place the ocean high on their agenda, accordingly. 

10 May 2019

This year’s International Day of Biological Diversity on May 22 is a timely reminder of the fragility of nature. The seventh Global Assessment Report, published on 6 May by the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, clearly shows that the world is on track for the largest biodiversity extinction wave ever recorded in human history. Up to 1,000,000 species are threatened with extinction, with plant and animal species becoming extinct at one thousand times the rate before humans existed. The causes of this extinction are undoubtedly human: our way of life is killing Earth’s biodiversity.

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10 April 2019

The emerging national debate on the environmental impact of single-use plastic, and its restriction, highlights the need to tackle another major source of marine pollution: microplastics. The European Chemical Agency recently called for a public consultation to restrict microplastics. Seas At Risk calls on Environmental and Health Ministries, civil society organisations and research institutes across Europe to take part in the consultation process and submit arguments and evidence in favour of an ambitious and wide-ranging restriction.

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26 February 2019

The European eel population has seen a steady decline since the 1970’s and is now at a critically low level. Hope is that this situation will be improved through the “Save Our Eel” project of the Good Fish Foundation and RAVON, supported by Seas At Risk. Today the Dutch Postcode Lottery announced it would fund this project.

The reasons for the steady decline of the European eel are diverse, including pollution, overfishing, poaching, and barriers, such as dams and pumps, that cut off the eel migration up rivers and streams. By implementing actions at national and international level jointly with policy makers, managers, fishing sector, nature organizations and other stakeholders, the project will aim to remove migration barriers, improve eel habitats, ensure the sustainable consumption-, fishing-, and trade of eel, as well as preventing the illegal trade of eel.

Seas At Risk looks forward to be actively involved in the project and congratulates the two project partners on their successful project design.

20 December 2018

After years of advocating for strong legislation to effectively reduce marine litter, Seas At Risk today welcomes the adoption of two ambitious pieces of European legislation which will pave the way for a bluer and more sustainable future.

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14 December 2018

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.  

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05 December 2018

Seas At Risk member MedSOS, together with other environmental NGOs in Greece, has expressed its satisfaction at the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy’s recent important step towards protecting the Natura 2000 site of Kyparissia Bay. However, it now calls for guarantees that the remarkable site will be protected in practice against deterioration.

Kyparissia Bay is the second most important nesting site of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean, as well as one of the most important sand dune systems in Greece. On 17 October 2018, the Greek government issued a decree giving an institutional and legal protective framework to the Natura 2000 site of Kyparissia Bay, thus protecting it from plans for unregulated coastal development. At the same time, however, the government granted permission for hydrocarbon exploration and extraction in the marine area adjacent to Kyparissia Bay. This raises serious concerns about the extent of the protection afforded to the habitat’s valuable ecological characteristics or to sustainable development of the local community.

To ensure a sufficient level of protection, there is an urgent need for a Management Plan to be prepared and issued for the protective area. The implementation of such a plan will ensure that the illegal activities that continue to degrade the habitat will be addressed, and the needs of the local community taken into account. Any such Management Plan must address several crucial issues: complete mapping of the legal roads in the protected area; beach use rules (duration of stay at the beach, beach zoning, code of conduct, etc.) that will prevent harassment of sea turtles during their highly sensitive reproduction cycle; rules for beach bars operating in the core habitat; fishing regulations; and hunting regulations to protect the area’s bird fauna.

The environmental organisations hope that the legal decision to protect Kyparissia Bay will immediately be followed by the preparation of management measures to effectively protect the area and safeguard the sustainable development of the local community.

23 November 2018

Once hailed as a way to reduce stress on fish stocks, fish farms turn out to make things worse in a range of cases. As the fishing industry globalised, the grabbing of fish has even given rise to a term: ocean grabbing, warns the ENT Foundation, member of Seas At Risk.


As global demand for seafood surges, fishing industrialised on unprecedented scales. Fish is being caught ever further, deeper and earlier: further from shore, from deeper down and earlier in the food chain. Faced with the ecological limits of wild fish stocks, aquaculture increased its production by 8.6% per year in the last three decades. Around half of the fish supply for human consumption is now provided by aquaculture. In that process, Europe also became the largest importer of seafood products.

Fish farms were once presented as a solution for overfishing, but does the scientific evidence back that up? Some studies already showed the ecological, social and political problems caused by shrimp and salmon farms in Asia or Latin-America but until recently little was known about fish farms in places like Europe and the wider Mediterranean. A good place to look is the eastern Mediterranean, in Turkey, where the production volume quadrupled between 2000 and 2016 and from where 75% is exported to the EU.

Turkish boats target African waters for EU consumers

When the competing uses of marine space started to become conflicting in European coastal countries like Greece and Spain, a geographical expansion to the largely unspoiled waters of Turkey suddenly became the next great business opportunity. However, the amount of feed needed for carnivorous farmed fish—such as sea bass, sea bream or salmon—to gain a kg of body weight depends on small wild fish. This means that most fish farms need to use a higher amount of capture fish to feed the farmed fish. According to an industrial fisherman and fishmeal producer in Turkey—who preferred that his name remains anonymous in order to avoid political tension with other actors from the fishing or aquaculture sector or the state—, “this creates its own capture fishing economy and increases the pressure on wild fish stocks instead of decreasing it. So, it leads to a paradox between capture fisheries and farmed fish production.”

In Turkey, this paradox manifests itself in the European anchovy catch in the Black Sea, which is the most preferred species for fish feed production. Captures by the Turkish fleet have been a significant pressure on European anchovy stocks in the Black Sea at least from the 1970s onwards. After the decline in bigger high-value commercial species, anchovy and sprat stocks also collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although they had gradually recovered in 2000s, the catch rate in Turkey is still at least 1.5 times above its maximum sustainable yield—the maximum amount of a species that can be caught to allow its reproduction and maintain healthy stocks.

But the story of anchovy is also a story of exclusion of people and creating inequality. Between 1950 and 1960, 90% of European anchovy landings in Turkey were used for direct human consumption, whereas currently 56% of it is used for fish meal and fish oil production. The common use of anchovy shifted away from direct human consumption, thus decreasing access to small and cheap fish to eat.

A small-scale fisherman argued that the only ones benefiting from this shift are fishmeal factory owners: “The anchovy ‘we’ should eat goes to factories. They [industrial fishermen] catch hundreds of tons of anchovy in just one night. If its stock collapses, we would have no fishermen left. You can't use the small fish for feed; this has no end. There is no such ‘feed’ in the sea.”

With fewer fish left in the Black Sea, industrial fishers from Turkey have begun to go towards West Africa, especially Mauritania as a new destination. They capture small fish in the seas of Mauritania to be turned into fish meal and fish oil and eventually fish feed in factories. In this process, the social and ecological costs are massive, and a form of environmental injustice becomes inevitable. These trends are now as if a rush to resources is extended to the high seas.

From land grabbing to ocean grabbing

The story that aquaculture helps to save wild fish from overfishing is a myth in current circumstances. Instead of providing a solution to depleting fish stocks, the intensive farming of carnivorous fish species creates an extra source of pressure on fisheries, where exploitation leads to further expansion and intensification. Continuous expansion and the growth imperative of capital imply that the main aim of seafood companies is not overcoming social or ecological crises related to declining stocks and capture fisheries, but overcoming risks to a profit decrease.

Industrial fish farms are only one of the capital-intensive investments that lead to the larger phenomenon of “ocean grabbing”. As another version of land grabbing, grabbing of marine and aquatic resources is currently taking place on ever more seas and oceans. This leads to the loss of access to marine area and seafood, displacement of local communities and fisher people; and to a range of environmental injustices. Many fisher folk organizations not only in Mediterranean and Europe, but also throughout the world confront and resist such capital-intensive investments that grab their marine resources. Cases of ocean grabbing that lead to socio-environmental conflicts of fisher communities as well as their resistances are documented and visualized in the global Environmental Justice Atlas.


This article is a media friendly summary of the peer reviewed publication “The expansion of intensive marine aquaculture inTurkey: The next-to-last commodity frontier?” by Irmak Ertör from ENT Foundation and Miquel Ortega Cerdà for the Journal of Agrarian Change.


14 November 2018

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.

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30 October 2018

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. 

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30 October 2018

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.

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