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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30 October 2018

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).

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23 October 2018

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.

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19 October 2018

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.

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27 September 2018

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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26 September 2018

Last week, G7 Environment Ministers met in Halifax, Canada to discuss climate change, oceans and clean energy. The Oceans Partnership Summit brought together some 200 representatives from industry, civil society and research, including Seas At Risk. These delegates were invited to come up with recommendations for the Ministers on sustainable oceans and fisheries, marine litter and resilient coasts and coastal communities.

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13 September 2018

On 13 September the European Parliament voted in favour of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, proposed by the European Commission in January 2018. Seas At Risk welcomes the Parliament’s endorsement of the Strategy. This vote shows that the European institutions acknowledge the need for Europe to change the ways it produces and uses plastic, and are in favour of moving towards the circular economy model.

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12 September 2018

On 29 August, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) gave its views on the Commission’s proposal on a Single-use Plastics Directive. The majority of MEPs in ENVI are seeking more ambitious measures to reduce plastic pollution than those proposed by the European Commission.

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10 September 2018

The European Environment Agency is encouraging citizens to get involved in its Marine Litter Watch Month from 17 September to 16 October 2018. The project aims to combat plastic litter, using citizen science (scientific research partly conducted by members of the public) and mobile phone technology to help individuals and communities to build a compelling case to clean up Europe’s beaches.

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05 September 2018

A coalition of 15 German environmental, development and human rights NGOs, including Seas At Risk member BUND, issued a position paper ‘Stop the exploitation of the deep sea!’, in which they demand the Federal Government reverse its political position and move decisively away from the depletion of the deep sea.

The German government supports a number of industry and research initiatives, both politically and financially, that significantly promote deep sea mining. These include sponsorship of two exploration contracts with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), for contracts held by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources of Germany, one for nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean and another for polymetallic sulphides in the Central Indian Ocean.

The NGOs, all of which are members of the German NGO Working Group on Deep Sea Mining, are calling for a substantial rethink and change in policy-making. The group highlights the severe environmental risks of deep sea mining and warns the government of its impact on the lives of coastal inhabitants. They are particularly concerned about the Pacific region, where extraction is likely to start, and where much of the population relies on subsistence fisheries and tourism and is thus heavily dependent on a normally functioning environment.

The NGOs demand that the German government suspend its exploration licences, exclude deep sea mining from future promotion of foreign trade and investment, take action at EU level to ensure no further support for future research funding programmes for deep sea mining in the Pacific region, and undertake stronger action for designating marine conservation areas.

This is another important step in the growing global resistance of NGOs to deep sea mining. It follows July’s action by Seas At Risk, together with Greenpeace, in leading a world-wide coalition of 50 NGOs demanding that the international community invest fully in sustainable consumption and production instead of venturing into deep sea mining.

The position paper in German is available here.

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