A petition backed by 172,120 people was handed in to EU environment ministers this week calling for protection for ecologically diverse, clean and healthy seas.

Plastic pollution and over-fishing have emerged as major threats to our marine environment and environmental NGO Seas at Risk organised this petition which calls for swift action from European leaders.

“Watching and waiting is no longer sufficient: now is the time for action,” Seas at Risk said in a statement.

By 2020, EU member states are supposed to achieve Good Environmental Status. The is the main goal of the Marine Directive and it includes the preservation of biodiversity and the regulation of litter in the sea, two of the main issues raised by Seas at Risk.

However a recent report from Seas at Risk revealed that the failure of EU governments to act means that this goal will not be achieved.

The report concluded that the actions taken by EU member states were not sufficient to deal with the volume of marine litter which is polluting coasts or to guarantee healthy populations of commercial fish or shellfish.

The analysis came to some concerning conclusions about the measures taken in recent years:

  • 67% of fisheries measures and 35% of litter measures were actually taken to implement already existing legislative requirements
  • 27% of fisheries measures and 30% of litter measures were new legislative proposals
  • 6% of fisheries measures and 35% of litter measures were voluntary instruments

To solve the situation, a number of recommendations were made by the NGO:

“EU Ministers need to make concrete efforts to reduce pollution, end overfishing and protect at least 30% of EU seas, and work towards achieving ecologically diverse, clean and healthy EU seas by 2020.”

They encourage legislation to go beyond the Common Fisheries Policy when it comes to fisheries measures, but also advise changing our way of producing and consuming when it comes to litter measures.

The NGO expects actions to be taken soon to truly target the challenges that we face.

Jeremy Wates, EEB Secretary General, commented:

“Over 172,000 people have called on EU governments to honour their commitments to clean up Europe’s marine waters by 2020. This is not about calling for a new law, it is about using one that already exists properly.”