Europe and Central Asia
15 Nov 2018

Not just a drop in the ocean

By Christopher Sands

Whether we sail across her surfaces and swells or slice into her depths with a dive, we too often take our oceans for granted. Ordinarily we focus on our marine work in the summer when we know much of our readership are enjoying the balmy pleasures of the seashore environment.

However this winter we have a critical chance to change EU policy to better our seas. Their health is essential to us as a source of food, income and employment, but also in providing ecosystem services such as coastal protection and carbon sequestration.

Currently, members of the European Parliament and national Fisheries Ministers are debating how to spend six billion euros of our money in the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF). For too long this money has been focused almost exclusively on financing private economic activity, for example ever larger fishing fleets, with no accompanying focus on ensuring this spending delivers anything in the way of public goods or meeting the serious environmental crises our oceans face.

To that end, we have launched a petition to demand that our Parliament and our national Fisheries Ministers spend at least 25% of this six billion euro bonanza (1.5 billion euros) on protecting and restoring our oceans.

The negative impacts currently unaddressed include those associated with overfishing and unrestrained aquaculture, intensive pollution, seabed mining, and inadequately regulated energy production, maritime transport, coastal development and tourism. Increasingly as well, we face the effects of higher and higher CO2 levels and climate change (acidification, temperature rises, changes in ice cover and currents). These pressures reinforce each other leading to a vicious circle of cumulative impacts.

The devastating numbers shock:

  •  ̴ 250 000 seabirds were killed in Portugal, Spain and France from just one oil spill off the Galician coast
  • ̴ 13 000 vessels with dangerous cargo pass off the Galician coast every year. In Spain, for example, 135 accidents involving oil spills occurred between 1991 and 2016.
  • ̴ 275 000 tons of plastics enter the EU seas every year
  • 85% of Mediterranean fish stocks are overfished
  • ̴ 200 000 seabirds across Europe die in fishing gear every year
  • ̴ 44 000 sea turtles in the Mediterranean drown caught in fishing gear annually

The timelessness evoked by tides ebbing and rising and waves crashing unceasingly may have fooled us into thinking that the massive power of the ocean somehow renders her invulnerable to the abuse she suffers at the mercy of mankind. Tragically, nothing could be further from the truth as this tiny sliver of statistics above indicates. Sign our petition now to demand that the politicians spending our money act concretely and immediately to change course. They must invest in protecting the ocean so your children and grandchildren can enjoy the sea and her bounty as you did in your own youth.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.