Europe and Central Asia
28 Jun 2018

Spain, France and Italy - The three (not-so) Wise Monkeys

© Jordi Chias/
By Bruna Campos, EU Marine & Fisheries Policy Officer

The western Mediterranean’s tremendous natural beauty is a marine marvel that fulfils most of our fantasies of summer idylls.  Picture the inviting blue beaches of Cote d’Azur, the white sandy beaches of Menorca, and the wild beaches of Costa Verde.  What many might not realise is that underlying this beauty and soul-satisfying serenity is one of the most diverse ecosystems in Europe – from the loggerhead sea turtles feeding on jellyfish around the Balearic Islands, to colourful red corals under the sea and so much more. It is this very diversity that makes it such an enriching environment for us humans.

Our scientific and conservation work at BirdLife warns us, however, of the now severe effects of current fishing practices. Their tremendous impact could well destroy the very essence of what we now treasure. Fishers catch sea turtles, seabirds, dolphins, whales, and seals as they struggle to earn a living from the small amounts of fish left living in these waters. They also drag their fishing gear on the seabed and reefs, with the unintended but devastating destruction of marine life. This is the ultimate shooting oneself in the flipper! Traditionally, of course, fishing has been a big part of the Mediterranean culture so precious to us all. But ironically, the tradition, unrestricted and left entirely to its own devices, has robbed our seas and if unchecked, will destroy itself in the process

So it is up to us, and more precisely our governments, to change this. Most straightforwardly, this means managing the pressures of current fishing practices through a variety of effective regulations, controls and, most importantly, proper enforcement. The European Commission has proposed one regulation that could solve part of the problem for the demersal fleet in the western waters of the Mediterranean. However, the reality is Spain, France and Italy seem unconcerned by the extremely negative impact their fishing fleets have under current short-sighted practices. Shockingly, there is no sign of concern. So while seabirds like the Balearic shearwater are on the verge of extinction in great measure due to being bycaught by fishers, these three ‘unwise’ monkey governments prefer to neither see, hear, nor speak of the evil being wrought in our waters. Will the rest of the EU Council follow?

As you read this, while paddling in the waves or sunbathing on the sands, our European decision makers are utterly failing to save our oceans. In theory, legally committed to implement the Nature Directives, they allow destructive human activities to go unchecked and as a result, marine life is rapidly dying. They committed that by 2020, European seas will be restored to good condition, yet, with just two years to go, they haven't adopted any of the needed rules. Once again, despite their lip service to the citizen, they let private interest win over public needs.

It is frightening, and also tragic, that we have gotten to this point in human history. Must we subject all of the incredible nature we are entrusted with and leave it entirely to the mercy of human greed?

The next six months will be crucial for the Mediterranean as decision makers either stand up for nature at sea or deal a final blow to a dying ocean. So take a stand for nature at sea and tell your leaders that marine life is being killed because of their refusal to deliver on their legal commitments to our nature. To ensure our planet's survival, we must see, hear and speak of the evil in our midst.


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.