13 May 2020

Seas At Risk together with Birdlife, ClientEarth and Our Fish wrote a letter to EU Commission Vice-President Timmermans to voice their concern regarding a potential lack of consideration for the harmful environmental impacts of seafood production in the soon to be released Farm to Fork strategy. The most recent draft did not include any comprehensive measures or targets for a transition to a more sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sector. The current seafood production system is ecologically unsustainable and a major driver of marine biodiversity loss. Therefore, the NGOs urged in the letter, adjusting the upcoming strategy to include appropriate measures is crucial to achieve a truly sustainable European food production.


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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28 January 2020

More than 100 environmental organisations, led by Seas At Risk, BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, Oceana, Surfrider Foundation Europe and WWF launched the “Blue Manifesto”. The rescue plan lays out concrete actions which must be delivered by set dates in order to turn the tide on the ever-degraded and polluted ocean and coastlines. To be successful, change is needed on both land and sea. The NGOs call for: At least 30% of the ocean to be highly or fully protected by 2030, Shift to low-impact fishing; Securing a pollution-free ocean; Planning of human activities that support the restoration of thriving marine ecosystems. 

Press Release available in EN, FR, ES, IT, PT, DE, HR, BG

Blue Manifesto vertical version

Blue Manifesto horizontal version



Full list of organisations signing the Manifesto: A Rocha (International Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme); Animal latitude; APECE - Portuguese Association for the Study and Conservation of Elasmobranchs; Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation; ASOC - Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition; Asociacion plataforma"El Chorlitejo"; BIOM association; BirdLfie Sverige; BirdLife Cyprus; Birdlife Europe and Central Asia; BirdLife Malta; BirdLife Suomi; Birdwatch Ireland; Bloom; Brot für die Welt; BUND - Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland; By the Ocean We Unite; Climate Action Network Europe; CCB - Coalition Clean Baltic; CFFA-CAPE; ClientEarth; Compassion in World Farming; Cork Env Forum; Cork nature network; Deep Sea Conservation Coalition; Deep wave; DEPANA; DN - Danmarks Naturfredningsforening; DSM - Deutsche Stiftung Meeresschutz; ; DUH - Deutsche Umwelthilfe; Ecologistas En Accion; Ecos; EEB - European Environmental Bureau; ENT Foundation; Environmental Justice Foundation; FANC - Finnish Association for Nature Conservation; France Nature Environnement; Friends of the Black Sea; Friends of the Earth Europe; Fundajia Aquarium; Geota; Good fish foundation; Greenpeace; HOS - Hellenic Ornithological Society; IFAW - International Fund for Animal Welfare Europe; INCA - Iceland Nature Conservation Association; International Programme on the State of the Ocean; Irish Sea Sanctuary; Irish Wildlife Trust; Legambiante; Living Sea; LOB - Latvian Ornithological Society; LOD - Lithuanian Ornithological Society; LPN - Liga para a Protecção da Natureza; LPO - Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux; MARE Foundation; Mare Nostrum; Marevivo; MCS - Marine Conservation Society; MedReact; MedSOS; MEER; MIO-ECSDE - Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development; Mundus Maris; NABU - Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union; Natuurpunt; New Economics Foundation; Ocean and Climate Platform; Oceana; OceanCare; Oceanografica; OMA - Observatório do Mar dos Açores; Otop - Ogólnopolskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków; Our Fish; PongPesca; Poseidonia green project; Project Aware; Prowildlife; Quercus; ReefCheck; Rethink Plastic Alliance; Retorna; RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; SAR - Seas At Risk; Sciaena; SDN - Stichting de Nordzee; Sea First; SEO - Sociedad Española de Ornitología; Slowfood Germany; SMILO - Small Islands Organisation; SPEA - Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves; SSNC - Swedish Society for Nature Conservation; Sunce; Surfrider; SWAN - Sustainable Water Network; T&E - Transport and Environment; TNC - The Nature Conservancy; Tour des deux Amériques solidaire en voilier; Under the pole; WDC - Whale and Dolphin Conservation; WWF; Zero Waste Europe.

20 November 2019

These are our priority actions for the European Commission work programme 2019 - 2024. This report was prepared by Seas At Risk and is backed by our 32 member organisations. The goal of this paper is to highlight our blue vision and how to work constructively with the European Commission to deliver the protection that our oceans urgently require. 




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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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.

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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27 June 2018

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.

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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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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.

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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27 June 2017

Seas At Risk organised a workshop on Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture as part of the annual European Maritime Day. This year’s edition took place in the port town of Poole in the UK and saw over 1,000 maritime stakeholders discussing maritime issues under the theme “The Future of our Seas”.

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10 March 2017

Seas At Risk Spanish member ENT Foundation, highlights Carrefour’s decision tostop selling imported Pangasius in Spain due to negative environmental impacts of aquaculture practices in Southeast Asia. Pangasious is not the only product produced in intensive aquaculture with significant socio-environmental impacts. 

In February of this year, the supermarket chain Carrefour announced that it would stop selling Pangasius in its supermarkets across Spain. Carrefour stated: "Given the doubts that exist about the adverse impact of Pangasius farms on the environment, we have decided to stop selling this fish."

This created a great opportunity for the Spanish media to finally talk about seafood consumption and report on the socio-environmental impacts generated by some of today's production systems and consumption habits. However, the media focussed once again only on our health, omitting that many other species generate as much or more damage to the environment as the Pangasius production does, and not that our current consumption model is clearly unsustainable.

In a period of ten years, Pangasius has become one of the most commercialized seafood products in the world, due to its fast growth rate and low production costs. Today, the majority of Pangasius that is sold in Spain comes from intensive aquaculture farms in Southeast Asia where Pangasius is cultured in shocking densities of up to 120kg of fish per cubic meter.

This raises great animal welfare and environmental concerns, as organic material from feed and fish waste builds up on the riverbed, as well as chemicals and drugs added to the water to fight fish diseases negatively impact the aquatic ecosystems. Doubts arise about the quality of fish produced and the impact on the consumers’ health.

In Spain, where the seafood consumption is 42.4 kilos per person per year -well above the European average (24.9 kg) and worldwide (18.9 kg)- overfishing continues to be an endemic problem. Especially in the Mediterranean where over 93% of fish stocks are overfished, making it a highly deficient country in seafood products and therefore highly unsustainable in this regard.

Spain thus dependends on foreign imports to meet domestic demand for fish. This creates an international trading system with a high carbon footprint, in which Spain ranks as the third world importer and ninth exporter, placing panga as the flagship product of imports.

However, ENT highlights that panga is not the only product produced in intensive aquaculture related to significant socio-environmental impacts. Other products such as salmon, Nile perch, or shrimp farmed in Ecuador, Thailand or Indonesia, for example, are also associated with critically environmental impacts. It is time to seriously consider the consequences of the Spanish consumption and production model and to shift attention to the conservation of our natural resources. 

ENT Foundation 


02 March 2017

Ocean acidification could cause an annual damage to the European shellfish production of €0.9 billion by 2100, according to a recent study.

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02 March 2017

In its first meeting in Madrid on 14th February, the working group on finfish of the Aquaculture Advisory Council elected its chair and vice-chair (Javier Ojeda (APROMAR) and Phil Brook (CiWF) respectively) and established four sub-working groups to discuss fish feed as well as  animal health law, animal welfare,  and Blue Growth/ a level playing field.

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15 December 2016

Following a three year long process the Advisory Council on Aquaculture is finally established, and can start its work on shaping European aquaculture. Seas At Risk aims to encourage the development of an environmentally responsible aquaculture sector, minimising its environmental impact.

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13 July 2016

Brussels – The newly created European Aquaculture Advisory Council (AAC) held its first General Assembly meeting today. An initial Executive Committee of fourteen members was elected, a work programme was approved and three working groups on finfish, shellfish, and horizontal matters were established.

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08 June 2016

8 June is the United Nations day for World Oceans. The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘healthy oceans, healthy planet’, yet developments during 2016 have shown just how much more needs to be done to preserve our seas from the effects of human activity. 

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19 May 2016

The new Data Collection Framework Regulation must include the mandatory requirement to collect data on all aquaculture production.

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