05 February 2018

On 16th January, as part of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the European Parliament adopted a strong resolution on international ocean governance, including a very welcome commitment to move towards ending the use of heavy fuel oil by ships in the Arctic.

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02 February 2018

The European Commission recently released its proposal for the revision of the Port Reception Facilities Directive. This proposal is vital for the protection of the marine environment, as it aims to prevent the dumping of ships’ waste at sea. Here, Seas At Risk takes a closer look at the two major changes proposed to improve waste delivery in ports: harmonisation of fees, and expansion of the system to include fishing boats.

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02 February 2018

The European Parliament, led by rapporteur Carlos Iturgaiz, is currently analysing the reasons underlying the failure of the EU aquaculture sector to grow at a level consistent with recent global trends (‘Towards a sustainable and competitive European aquaculture sector: current status and future challenges’). At a Parliamentary hearing on January 11th, several stakeholders, including the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers, General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives-General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union, BirdLife, and Seas At Risk, presented their views on the future development of the EU aquaculture sector.

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30 January 2018

The European Commission has announced its intention to significantly reduce the use of plastic bottles and other single-use plastic items on its premises. All eyes are now on the European Parliament and the European Council to step up and follow suit.  

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11 January 2018

Plastic bottles and bottle caps feature in the top 10 most frequently encountered litter items in the marine environment, rivers and along coastlines. In response, Seas At Risk member Surfrider Foundation Europe launched the awareness campaign Reset Your Habits in 2017. The campaign aims to reduce at-source pollution caused by plastic bottles by replacing these disposable bottles with reusable, sustainable alternatives. In this context, Surfrider recently published its White paper for an ocean free from plastic bottles.

The large-scale pollution caused by plastic items needs to be met with urgent and effective global action. Surfrider’s report looks at the overall cycle of the water bottle and recommends the following actions:

Improve the eco-design of plastic bottles. Reduce the production of plastic bottles, including small volumes. Reduce the distribution of plastic bottles by replacing these with alternatives. Reduce the consumption of plastic bottles by promoting alternatives. Improve the end-of-life management of plastic bottles.

Decision-makers, industry and citizens all have a role to play in making this happen. The EU, in particular, should lead the fight against such pollution by taking ambitious measures in its forthcoming Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy, due in January 2018. Discontinuing single-use plastic items, including bottles, would be a significant step towards addressing the threat posed by plastic pollution.  

06 December 2017

In its new report ‘Tackling overfishing and marine litter’, Seas At Risk undertakes an analysis of fisheries and marine litter measures adopted by Member States under the Marine Directive. While noting some progress, it concludes that much more effort is needed to achieve healthy fish stocks and reduce harm from marine litter by 2020. The report also provides recommendations on the measures needed.

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05 December 2017

On 11 & 12 December, the Fisheries Council will meet to agree fishing quotas for 2018. Ahead of this meeting, Seas At Risk, together with Pew, Oceana, ClientEarth and the Fisheries Secretariat, has called on the Ministers for Fisheries of the EU Member States to follow current scientific advice and take steps to end overfishing.

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28 November 2017

Today Members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament called for a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. Heavy fuel oil is the cheapest marine fuel and accounts for three quarters of all fuel carried in the fuel tanks of ships sailing in the Arctic. Heavy fuel oil is also one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, a waste product of the refining process. It is almost impossible to clean up in the event of a spill, and produces high levels of black carbon when burnt. Black carbon emissions accelerate the melting of Artic ice and contribute to climate change. Given the severe risks that heavy fuel oil poses to polar environments, the international shipping community has already banned its use in the Antarctic. It is now time to extend that ban to the Arctic.

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28 November 2017

Seas At Risk joined 19 other NGOs in a call to fisheries ministers to ban fisheries for adult eel in all EU waters, including fresh water. Due to anthropogenic impacts there has been a dramatic reduction in the European eel in all the EU in the last 30 years, and less than 5% of the stock is left.  Conservation efforts to protect this species have failed up to now. Since 2008 scientists have been advising to close the fisheries, but this has so far been ignored by the Ministers. The state of the European eel got to such critical level that immediate action is necessary to achieve the recovery of the species. A ban on the fishing on adult eels would allow them to spawn as a first step to recovery.

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23 November 2017

Time is ticking. Chances of achieving biologically diverse, clean and healthy seas by 2020 - as required  by the Marine Directive - are decreasing every day if urgent action is not taken. Measures proposed by Member States to achieve this noble commitment are too weak and  lacking in  ambition to  achieve it.  Meanwhile  our seas face increasing pressure.  Action is necessary, now!  

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22 November 2017

With its ‘Blue Growth Strategy’, the European Union aims to boost its aquaculture production, both to meet the growing demand for seafood and to foster economic growth and employment. To this end, the 2014 Common Fisheries Policy contains several measures to stimulate aquaculture, as does the 2014-2020 European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Simultaneously, however, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive obliges all EU Member States to improve the environmental condition of European seas and to reach Good Environmental Status by 2020. Given that excessive nutrient input poses a significant environmental problem in the Baltic Sea, these two policies risk an inherent incompatibility unless carefully managed.  

Early October this year, the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschlands e.V. (German member of SAR) held a small symposium in Kiel, Germany. Here, invited representatives from politics, science, aquaculture industry and environmental organisations discussed political developments at national, regional and EU level, and evaluated the possibilities presented by forms of aquaculture with minimal nutrient input to the Baltic.

Modern aquaculture encompasses many different production methods and target organisms. Farming options include open cage systems in natural waters, pond systems, or closed recirculating facilities operated on land, independent of natural water bodies. Open cage fish aquaculture systems in marine waters present a number of environmental challenges, such as nutrient loss through excess food and faeces, thereby exacerbating eutrophication.


The symposium firmly established that the ecological status of the Baltic Sea demands any further nutrient input be minimised. Presentations and subsequent discussions pointed to Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) as the only acceptable method of open cage fish farming in the Baltic. In this method, the nutrients introduced by the farmed fish would be absorbed by a pre-determined amount of mussels, preventing excess nutrients from entering the marine ecosystem. However, IMTA systems have not been tested at full industrial scale and the no-emission theory has yet to be proven in practice.

Land-based recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) seem to promise the best available technology and seem ideally suited to the Baltic region, as they do not introduce further nutrients to marine waters. The polluter’s pays principle is embedded within RAS, with the polluter paying for cleaning and reusing the water, to a large extent. The production of fish close to the consumer market also represents an environmental advantage. However, questions remain about the species farmed, animal welfare, energy requirements, water recycling and technical issues. To date, few RAS facilities produce fish for the open market, as most are pilot or scientific projects whose fish products are too expensive for general sale.

For a semi-enclosed sea such as the Baltic, cooperation among all neighbouring countries is necessary to ensure protection of this important environmental resource. Such regional coordination is a mandatory element of both the Espoo Convention and EU cross-border cooperation. Currently, Denmark is planning 600 square metres of open cage aquaculture facilities in the Kattegat, as well as pioneering land-based RAS. In both cases, cooperation across country borders would benefit the Baltic Sea.

Lastly, the symposium discussed the underlying assumption that aquaculture should fill the gap created by the dwindling wild catch as a result of overfishing and stock loss. If fish were to be seen as a rarely consumed delicacy rather than a product for mass consumption, the quantities needed would be lower, making the marketing of high quality products from land-based production easier.

10 November 2017

EU governments and Members of the European Parliament have agreed that Europe should act on ship greenhouse gas emissions from 2023 if the International Maritime Organisation fails to deliver effective global measures.

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02 November 2017

In October 2017, Seas At Risk together with its Portuguese members organised a conference on ‘Deep sea mining – A sustainable choice for Portugal?’, which was attended by over 100 participants, including Portuguese and Azorean government representatives, NGOs and scientists. The conference also marked the launch of Oceano Livre, a coalition of Portuguese NGOs against deep sea mining.

Oceano Livre brings together a number of groups: the Group of Spatial Planning and Environmental Studies (GEOTA); the League for Nature Protection (LPN); Quercus, the National Association for Nature Conservation; and Sciaena, the Marine Sciences and Cooperation Association. The conference took place in the spectacular setting of the Lisbon Oceanarium and was supported by Seas at Risk.

For some time, the Portuguese government has been considering an application by the Canadian company Nautilus for deep sea mining exploration and exploitation in Azorean waters, on the Portuguese extended continental shelf. Oceano Livre is the response of Portuguese NGOs, and is intended to raise public awareness of the potential implications of deep sea mining. The absence of any real debate on the issue to date points to a clear need for more critical assessment and discussion of sustainable alternatives to mining.

At the conference, several experts presented current research on the potential environmental impacts of deep sea mining, highlighting the risk of irreversible biodiversity loss and impacts from plumes, noise and light pollution. Gaps in governance and regulatory frameworks at both national and international level were outlined, and the future demand for minerals was discussed in the context of the ongoing transition to sustainable consumption and production systems. These insights framed a lively and engaged audience debate about the Portuguese/ Azorean case, indicating the depth of interest in the topic.

Oceano Livre’s position is clear: neither Portugal nor the world need deep sea mining, particularly in view of the scale and range of its environmental impacts. The movement believes that effective application of the circular economy, changes in consumer habits, and new alternative technologies will be sufficient to remove the need for deep sea mining.

This conference represented a first step towards opening a long-overdue public debate on deep sea mining. Seas At Risk has since called on the representatives of national and regional governments present at the conference to take the lead in continuing this necessary social debate. In Portugal, the Ministry assured conference attendees that decisions will be made carefully and with due regard to all possible impacts and benefits. Oceano Livre will continue to observe the process closely.


02 October 2017

Today 24% of all seafood consumed in the European Union comes from aquaculture. In order to reduce environmental pressures by aquaculture on marine ecosystems, aquaculture needs to become more sustainable. A cornerstone in achieving this goal is to introduce alternative feeds, which do not use fishmeal and fish oil. For this, protein-rich insect larvae have particularly great potential.

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29 September 2017

In response to the letter sent by Seas At Risk and 6 other NGOs calling on the EU institutions to give up their addiction to single use plastics, the Commission and the Council both claim they are working towards greener public procurement. The Parliament has to date provided no response to the letter sent on 31st March, raising questions on their commitment to the Circular Economy.

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29 September 2017

Ahead of the annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority, Seas at Risk member the MARE Foundation called on the Polish government to cease its sponsorship of deep-sea exploration in areas beyond its national jurisdiction. Poland, however, ignored this appeal, instead continuing with its application for a new deep-sea mineral exploration contract in an area that the UN Convention on Biodiversity has declared to be of special importance for the health of oceans. This new contract was approved by the International Seabed Authority on 10th August.

In a letter to the Polish government, the MARE Foundation urged Poland to re-examine its support for the further development of deep-sea mining, calling for a shift towards sustainable alternatives to deep-sea mining and investment in the circular economy. The Polish government had previously undertaken a deep-sea mining exploration contract with the International Seabed Authority. The 2016 expiry of that contract prompted the Ministry of the Environment to apply for a new exploration licence in an area within the hydrothermal vent fields along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean.

Deep-sea mining poses a serious threat to global sustainability and the health of the marine ecosystem. Of considerable concern is the location of the new Polish exploration contract in what the UN Convention on Biodiversity has identified as an “Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area”, i.e. an area that gives essential support to the healthy functioning of oceans. Worryingly, the International Seabed Authority were unaware of the status of the area yet, despite having it subsequently drawn to their attention by NGOs, nonetheless proceeded to approve the contract, constituting an unprecedented breach of the precautionary principle.

In addition, the MARE Foundation began an online campaign to raise awareness among the Polish people of their government’s involvement in deep-sea mining. The campaign began with petitioning the Minister of the Environment to cease sponsorship and support for this activity, gathering 640 signatures in two weeks. Together with the Polish NGO, Institute of Global Responsibility, the MARE Foundation plans further public communication and awareness-raising activities to encourage the government to withdraw its support for deep-sea mining.

28 September 2017

Shipping industry proposals for "carbon neutral growth" would mean 4 degree of warming and climate catastrophe. Which shipping companies support that?

14 September 2017

Seas At Risk welcomes the decision of the European Parliament for a robust North Sea multiannual management plan that will effectively see an end to overfishing of species living near the sea bottom in that region. The plan covers fish stocks that represent almost 70% of the North Sea catch.

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19 July 2017

The European Parliament Fisheries Committee voted last week on the multiannual management plan for demersal species in the North Sea. The outcome of the decision contained both negative and positive aspects.

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