30 March 2021

Seas At Risk member, the Danish Society for Nature Conservation (Danmarks Naturfredningsforening), and the fishing industry have agreed a historic proposal to ensure full protection of 10.1% of the Danish North Sea and Skagerrak, as well as 10.3% of the Danish part of the central Baltic Sea. The move sees them poised to lead the European mission for stronger marine protection.

Representatives from the Danish Society for Nature Conservation and the Danish Fishermen Producer Organisation approached the Danish government and proposed the designation of 10% of the Danish North Sea, the Skagerrak, and the Baltic Sea around Bornholm as an untouched area, with no fisheries, recreational or commercial activities permitted. This follows marine research showing that large, coherent, untouched sea areas without fisheries or any other commercial activites are one of the most important tools in restoring nature in the ocean.

The two organisations are seeking better protection of the marine environment, as well as a framework for a more sustainable fishing industry that will continue to provide jobs in coastal areas and strengthen social cohesion in Denmark. Should the proposed increased protection of these areas cause significant, negative economic consequences for fishermen, the parties will recommend political discussion of targeted supports for fisheries, with a focus on sustainable transformation.

Both sides recognise the importance of this proposal, particularly in light of the traditional differences between nature and fisheries. Each is as part of its national Maritime Spatial Planning. However, they highlighted that this is only the first of many steps needed to successfuly reinvigorate marine life and restore the balance of the ocean. The Danish Society for Nature Conservation targets at least 30% effectively protected Marine Protected Areas by 2030, in addition to the 10% strictly protected. This level of ocean protection ambition is welcome and should be followed by other European countries.

17 March 2021

Seas At Risk is pleased to welcome Deutsche Stiftung Meeresschutz (German Foundation for Marine Protection) as our newest member, bringing our membership to 32 organisations in 16 EU countries.

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10 March 2021

In a letter to environment ministers, Seas At Risk (together with its members BUND, OceanCare and IFAW) and Coalition Clean Baltic decry the weak measures taken by Member States to reduce underwater noise and call for a Europe-wide strategy to avoid and mitigate underwater noise.

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06 August 2020

The campaign to Save the Whales in the 1970s and 1980s ended the worst horrors of commercial whaling and inspired the beginnings of the global green movement.  At the time, whales were rightly seen as the victims of human action, in need of protection. Today, as we learn more about them, we realise that they might be among our most surprising allies in combating climate breakdown. 

Research into whales as climate protectors focuses on their three main functions in the marine ecosystem - gardeners, mixers and storers of the oceans:

Gardeners: whale faeces and urine are extremely rich in nutrients, especially iron, which is scarce in many ocean regions. When whales defecate, they release those nutrients into the seawater, causing phytoplankton blooms. Phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide and creates about 50% of the atmospheric oxygen that is crucial for our survival. Mixers: whales migrate long distances and dive deep, meaning that they act as excellent transporters of nutrients. Different species of whales feed on a range of marine creatures, including krill and fish, and – again - their faeces contribute to the growth of phytoplankton. Whales thus bring nitrogen, iron and other nutrients to areas where they are not otherwise available, promoting productivity of the oceans. Storer: When whales die, they usually sink to the bottom of the sea, where it can take centuries for their bodies to decompose. With an average Blue Whale weighing some 100 tonnes, that body weight contains several tonnes of carbon absorbed throughout their life. This makes their bodies very large and effective stores of carbon on the ocean floor.

Credit: The Hideout

Rebuilding whale populations would lock away 145,000 tonnes of climate harming carbon inside whale carcasses every year. More whales also means more phytoplankton and more carbon taken out of the atmosphere.

If we are to enable whales to play their role as climate change mitigants, we need to stop whaling, end captivity, achieve zero bycatch and make sure that more Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are established and enforced. These are the goals that Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has been pursuing since its foundation over 30 years ago and it is continuing to work towards with the Green Whale.

Green Whale Video (credit: Gentleman Scholar)

While their role as climate protectors is an additional reason for us to protect whales, their worth should not be measured solely by what they can do for us. Rather, they have their own significant intrinsic value, as intelligent, socially organised sentient beings.

We are just beginning to understand that whales are our allies in the fight against the climate crisis. In the future, countries that effectively protect whales can hope to count this as a climate protection measure, much like the preservation of rainforests.


by Tharaka Sriram, Campaigner for the Green Whale, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Germany.

10 June 2020

Scientists indicate that deep sea fish populations in the EU are either depleted or lacking information to assess their status. NGOs urge European decision-makers to set fishing limits for highly vulnerable deep sea fish populations in line with scientific advice and the precautionary approach.

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05 June 2020

Green recovery offers considerable potential for smart investments that will deliver both a healthier economy and a healthier environment. However, although investments in the marine environment can yield large returns, governments around the world spend an estimated 22 billion dollars annually on capacity-enhancing, harmful financial incentives and subsidies in the fisheries sector alone. The EU, too, continues to invest in these harmful incentives, despite the marine ecosystem being already on the brink on collapse. The EU’s Green Recovery plan presents an unexpected opportunity to redirect these resources towards sustainable recovery.

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26 May 2020

Scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) have published landmark advice today, warning the European Commission that immediate action is needed to protect two critically vulnerable marine species. A group of NGOs has welcomed the move, which came in response to their major intervention last year. 

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26 May 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted seafood supply chains, leading the EU institutions and Member States to react quickly, allocating funds to address the health and economic impacts on the seafood production industry. However, any policy proposal or stimulus package for the maritime sector must contribute to rebuilding a healthier, more resilient and socially just Blue Economy. In a recent paper, Seas At Risk, together with 11 other marine NGOs, has devised a principle-based approach to assess post-Covid-19 fisheries support policies in light of this overarching objective.

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13 May 2020

Fundació ENT, together with Sciaena and Ecologistas en Acción, analysed the European Commission’s communications on EU fisheries in line with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for the period 2015 to 2020. The detailed analysis raises a number of concerns about the methodology used by the Commission, showing that the number of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) set ‘in line with MSY’ in EU fisheries in 2020 has been overestimated by 29%.

In order to allow the recovery of fish stocks to sustainable levels, the Common Fisheries Policy requires the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) exploitation rate to be achieved by 2015 where possible and at the latest by 2020 for all stocks. Five years since the reformed Common Fisheries Policy entered into force, considerable uncertainty remains about the real number of stocks exploited at sustainable levels in the EU, defined by the number of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) set in line with scientific advice on the MSY.

Each year since December 2014, following the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers annual decision, the European Commission (EC) has published a list of the stocks fished in the North-East Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea that are considered ‘in line with MSY’ for the following year (see 2020 list here). These annual communications are an essential measure of the steps taken by EU Fisheries Ministers to establish sustainable fishing limits, yet they contain significant inconsistencies and complicate assessments of real progress towards the legal requirement to end overfishing.

More specifically, the NGOs comparison report (see detailed table at the end of the document) shows that the seven new TACs listed by the Commission as ‘in line with MSY in 2020’ are neither truly new nor in line with MSY.

The report also reveals that the number of TACs ‘in line with MSY’ has been overestimated by the Commission every year. This overestimation is due to the Commission’s inclusion of:

Various fishing limits for which Fisheries Ministers agreed to set their TAC above the precautionary approach, above the scientific advice for zero catch, or above the scientific advice on MSY (e.g. salmon in the Baltic, megrim in the Irish Sea, northern hake, etc.) Various fishing limits with only partial or no MSY advice on catch available from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for stocks covered by a TAC, or because some stocks or functional units are considered undefined by ICES (e.g. megrim in the Bay of Biscay, Norway lobster in the Celtic Sea and Irish Sea).

This analysis reveals that up to 18 TACs cannot be considered ‘in line with MSY’ in 2020 and should be removed from the list, leaving 44 of the 62 TACs on the Commission list for this year. This means that the European Commission has overestimated the number of TACs set in line with MSY in 2020 by 29%. A longer-term analysis suggests that since 2015, the European Commission has overestimated the number of TACs set in line with MSY by 19% on average. The overall number of TACs set ‘in line with MSY’ should therefore be:

2015 - 30 (instead of 36); 2016 - 29 (instead of 38); 2017 - 37 (instead of 47); 2018 - 50 (instead of 53); 2019 - 49 (instead of 59); and 2020 - 44 (instead of 62).

The decrease in the number of TACs set ‘in line with MSY’ is a worrying trend that demonstrates a reversal in progress towards ending overfishing in the last two years. This alarming lack of progress suggests that it is no longer possible to achieve the EU’s own legally binding deadline for achieving sustainable fishing limits for all stocks by 2020.

Fundació ENT, Sciaena and Ecologistas en Acción are encouraging the European Commission to consider all of the concerns and recommendations in the report. They particularly call on the Commission and EU Fisheries Ministers to significantly increase their efforts to end overfishing in line with the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, to guarantee that all fishing opportunities for 2021 (including deep sea) should not exceed the scientific advice, and to ensure that the precautionary approach defined in the Common Fisheries Policy is applied.

12 May 2020

After the Covid-19 pandemic made large gatherings of people unsafe around the world, environmental groups with consultative status at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), including the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC), of which Seas At Risk is a member, have written to the IMO Secretary General, Mr Kitack Lim, encouraging the organisation to continue its critical ship climate talks virtually.

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20 April 2020

A new research study undertaken by Seas At Risk’s member, Project AWARE, has revealed the scale and density of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean. The study was carried out under the citizen science programme, Dive Against Debris®, which conducts surveys of seafloor marine debris.  

Between 2011 and 2018, 468 Dive Against Debris® survey dives were conducted in 172 coastal locations in the Mediterranean Sea. The data analysis and study results have now been made available and will be used to develop waste management actions and policies across Europe. During the survey dives, information was collected on the quantity, type, and distribution of seafloor litter in shallow coastal waters. Overall, the average density observed was 43.55 items per 100 m2. Plastic was the predominant material, comprising 55% of the total collected items, with single-use plastic items alone constituting 33% of the total marine litter.


​Advancing our knowledge and understanding of marine debris - particularly seafloor debris - is integral to informing policy and developing solutions to prevent debris at source. Project AWARE recognises the importance of partnering with research institutes to advance scientific understanding. The Dive Against Debris® dataset provides an invaluable resource for quantifiable data on seafloor marine debris, as well as debris-free dive sites - knowing where rubbish is not present is just as important in identifying marine debris hotspots. No other dataset captures information on seafloor debris on this scale, either temporally or spatially.

Project AWARE is now collaborating on a research project with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia. The global Dive Against Debris® dataset, together with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) dataset (focusing on beach cleanups), are being used to conduct an analysis of coastal and seafloor debris to identify sources of marine debris. This is the first analysis of its kind on a global scale, comparing land and seafloor debris. Understanding how marine debris is transported from land into marine systems and the corresponding debris density on the seabed is critical to understanding the distribution and trends of marine debris, including plastic, in the ocean.

Dive Against Debris® provides a standardised survey protocol that can be implemented locally anywhere in the world to monitor sites and provide a baseline to measure trends and - potentially - the effects of local policies. Dive Against Debris® is aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a number of target areas and provides world leaders with a monitoring tool to measure and track their progress towards achieving the SDGs. This latest interactive infographic highlights those areas and Project AWARE’s continued support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Informed by Dive Against Debris® surveys, the Mediterranean study recently published in the ScienceDirect Marine Pollution Bulletin represents the first collection of marine litter data from European volunteer divers. Data analysis is essential for informing policy and implementing legislation that prevents debris from entering the ocean in the first place. Citizen science is a powerful tool to support scientific research, public awareness and policy change.

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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