Oceana: State of Europe’s seas goes from bad to worse

Press Release Date: June 24, 2015



Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

According to the first State of Europe’s Seas report, published today by the European Environment Agency, our seas are neither healthy nor clean, and although they are productive at present, this may be compromised in the future if the deterioration of marine ecosystems continues. Oceana is concerned by the report’s findings, including the observed loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation across all regional seas in Europe, and the fact that only 4% of marine species are considered to have a good status (against the objective of 100% by 2020). The report also concludes that ambitions for growth of the EU’s ‘blue economy’ are mismatched with the current poor status of Europe’s marine environment.

“Our seas cannot sustain the current pressure of human activities for much longer. It is not only for the sake of the environment, but also for our own – by pushing marine ecosystems to the limit, we are also gambling with our food security and economic growth,” stated Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe. “The message to EU leaders is clear: with less than five years to bring our seas back to health, there is no time for dithering and delaying.”

This report is the first EU-wide assessment of the status of European seas against goals set under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of having healthy, clean and productive seas. It also considers the main sustainability challenges affecting our seas and how the EU is responding to these. The key findings of the report include:

  • The status of 80% of assessed species and habitats is ‘unknown’; only 4% are of ‘good’ status and 2% of the known features are of ‘bad’ status.
  • 100% of assessed ecosystems have an ‘unknown’ status.
  • Most of the assessed commercial fish stocks in European seas (58%) are not at ‘good environmental status’ (GES), while GES cannot be assessed for 40% of EU catches, making it impossible to assess whether their status has improved.

“It is evident from the findings that one of the biggest obstacles to improving the state of European seas is a systematic lack of data on the marine environment. The EU must invest in gathering more and higher quality data, since in many cases it is not known where particular species and habitats occur, which ones are under threat, or what changes are occurring. Without this information, how will we even begin to properly manage damaging human activities?” added Ricardo Aguilar, research director at Oceana in Europe.