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Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems
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Wake up call: healthy oceans - productive ecosystems


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This presentation was produced for the ‘Healthy oceans – productive ecosystems’ (HOPE) conference. The conference discusses progress made over the past 5 years, the problems that still remain and the …

This presentation was produced for the ‘Healthy oceans – productive ecosystems’ (HOPE) conference. The conference discusses progress made over the past 5 years, the problems that still remain and the solutions for improved coherence and better marine governance in the context of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

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  • Introduction Europe’s seas are tremendously important. 41% of the EU’s population –206 million people – live in a coastal area, and 23 out of 28 member states have a coastline. The sea is vital to our economy and well-being. Yet it is also the home to a rich and diverse array of species, habitats and ecosystems, many of which are in jeopardy due to past and present human activities on land and at sea.  As maritime economic activities are predicted to increase in coming years their cumulative impacts need to be better managed to avoid the risk of irreversible damage to marine ecosystems. European countries need better information to help them understand the sustainable limits of these activities.
  • Climate change pressures on our seas So what is the state of our seas and what sort of pressures are affecting them? Our new marine messages report discusses this. The first pressure we must mention is that the world’s seas are under serious pressure from climate change.  Firstly, climate change increases sea temperatures. The rate of increase in sea surface temperature in all European seas during the past 25 years is the largest ever measured in any 25-year period. When temperatures change, this affects species distribution and ultimately species survival. And climate change affects the seas in another way: the increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are absorbed by the seas producing carbonic acid, resulting in acidified seas.
  • Fishing, agriculture, litter and invasive alien speciesTo these effects of climate change, we must also add a range of other pressures. Fishing is one such pressure. It is unquestionably placing strain on European fish stocks. In 2013, 39% of the assessed stocks were overfished in the North East Atlantic and adjacent waters while 88% of the assessed stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas were overfished. Off shore construction such as oil and gas infrastructure and wind turbines are adding further pressure. Human activities on land are also impacting on our seas. Agricultural fertilisers used on European farms are washed into rivers and discharged into our seas, causing eutrophication, the pollution of the seas by nutrients. These nutrients uses up oxygen in the water, killing other species, and making parts of our seas into ‘dead zones’ without any dissolved oxygen. Eutrophication is a particular cause of concern in the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and parts of the North Sea.  Another land-based activity that is damaging our seas is litter. Increasing amounts of litter, mostly coming from land-based sources, are ending up in the oceans. Marine litter causes injuries and death to a range of marine wildlife, mainly through ingestion and entanglement. To help better understand this problem, the EEA has developed Marine LitterWatch (MLW), a smartphone application, which combines citizen engagement and modern technology. Citizens can download the MarineLitterWatch app and input data on the marine litter they encounter on beaches and coastlines across Europe. The aim is to empower citizen networks throughout Europe with MLW and help to improve our knowledge of marine litter issues. MLW will also support the European Clean-up day on the 10th May and the Commissioner´s call for citizens across Europe to get involved and take the future of their environment into their own hands.  Lastly alien invasive species in European waters are adding to the pressure on marine biodiversity. Almost 300 hundred new species have been reported in European seas in the new millennium.
  • The state of marine knowledgeThe areas we have studied show tremendous pressures on the sea. But at the same time, there is still much about our seas that we still don’t know. For example, if we look at fisheries, roughly 50% of all landings from stocks in the European Atlantic and Baltic waters, and 80% of landings in the Mediterranean and Black Sea come from data-poor stocks, which are not assessed.  Reporting under the Habitats Directive shows that only 3% of marine species assessments were in favourable conservation status in 2008. 70% of marine species assessments were reported as unknown. MSFD reporting in 2012 suggests that these patterns remain unchanged.  In order to improve our knowledge of the seas, the EEA is supporting the development of a European marine ‘baseline’ as part of the information system WISE-Marine which will be used to inform future EEA assessments.   
  • Future growth and the need for effective marine policyThese problems are serious. But there is every indication that our seas could come under further pressure. Our societies are planning on increasing their maritime activities and exploitation of the sea in a range of sectors: transport and tourism, oil and gas extraction, seabed mining, and offshore renewable energy production.The EU’s Blue Growth strategy is an integrated plan that sees our marine environment as an engine of job creation and economic growth. In the coming years it will be crucial to ensure that this Blue Growth strategy is developed within sustainable limits, in a way that also guarantees the continued health of our marine ecosystems. It is the role of the MSFD to ensure sustainable use.   There is already some cause for hope as effective management does produce results. Take fisheries: the percentage of assessed European Atlantic fish stocks fished within or at their maximum sustainable yield has increased from 6% in 2005 to 39% in 2013. In the Baltic region, countries surrounding the Baltic Sea have agreed targets for reducing nutrient pollution to the sea which has reduced nutrient inputs by approximately 10% since 2003. This shows that targeted management efforts can greatly help.  We can add to this hope by building on the important first steps of the MSFD and strengthening it further. 
  • Transitions for an improved marine environmentIn the longer term, we need to think more radically and look at changing fundamental aspects of our society. This is where the message of hope is perhaps the most important.Our ‘socio-technical’ systems (for transport, food, and energy) all affect the oceans. To see real improvement in our marine environment, we must not only implement the MSFD and existing environmental legislation. We must also make radical changes in these underlying socio-technical systems. This means re-orienting our economies and our values to make a transition to more sustainable ways of living, producing and consuming.Making transitions is tricky, but it is necessary to fulfil the vision contained in the 7th EAP of ‘living well within the limits of our planet’, which speaks of our unsustainable practices of agriculture, land use and consumption. To fulfil this vision, we need bold new targets with the force of the 2020 targets in order to solidify and back up the visions is in line with the 2050 vision contained in the 7th EAP. We look forward to working with you to make this vision a reality. Thank you.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Wake up call Healthy oceans - productive ecosystems The speech for this presentation can be viewed in the slide notes below. Dr Hans Bruyninckx Executive Director, European Environment Agency Brussels, 3rd March 2014
    • 2. The diversity of Europe’s regional seas
    • 3. Marine climate change impacts European Seas Global Ocean
    • 4. Clean and undisturbed seas?
    • 5. Marine knowledge: towards a baseline • Reporting under the MSFD shows that less than 20% of biodiversity features reported on are considered in Good Environmental Status. • 70% of the marine species assessments and 40% of the marine habitats assessments were considered unknown in 2008. • Half of all fish landings in the European Atlantic and Baltic waters come from stocks that are not assessed. • The EEA is supporting the development of a European marine baseline as part of the information system WISEMarine.
    • 6. Ensuring sustainable use of the seas Short sea shipping up 100% by 2050 Growth in maritime monitoring and surveillance Offshore wind: annual growth rate 21.7% Cruise tourism: 12% annual growth rate Fisheries: 25% decline since 1993, potential to reverse trend and rebuild fish stocks
    • 7. Transitions to a better marine environment SUSTAINABILITY 2020 targets MSFD target (Good Environmental Status) Halt biodiversity loss Fisheries below Max. Sustainable Yield 20-20-20 targets 2020/2030 2050 Vision in 7EAP Reduce GHG 80-95% Water blueprint Zero impacts (air) SDGs ? WFD targets Nature Directives targets MSFD Baseline 2014/2018 TIME 2014-2018 thematic policies timelines and deadlines 2020/2030 comprehensive policies (Europe 2020, 7th EAP), or specific targets 2050 long term visions and targets with a societal transition perspective
    • 8. Marine LitterWatch At present, there are insufficient data to properly assess the problem of marine litter. Citizens can play a major role in enriching the data and information needed to support marine litter management and prevention. The Marine LitterWatch app combines citizen engagement and modern technology to help tackle the problem of marine litter.
    • 9. Moving towards a new understanding Marine messages Our seas, our future — moving towards a new understanding Read more about the challenges facing Europe's seas in our 'Marine messages' briefing.