Over 250 scientists call on European institutions and Member States to ban destructive fishing practices and industrial activities in Marine Protected Areas

PRESS RELEASE – Paris, Brussels – 12 September 2022


After a record summer of fires and heatwaves in the EU and just when researchers have shown that the Amazon Forest now emits more CO2 than it absorbs, more than 250 scientists from around the world are calling on European institutions and Member States to truly protect the ocean, the climate and marine biodiversity by “prohibiting all destructive fishing methods and industrial activities in Marine Protected Areas”.


The exclusive “Declaration of support” by scientists acts as a reminder for EU Institutions that current EU Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are hardly protected at all and thus fall short from providing any conservation benefits. The European Commission has been supposed to publish its “Ocean Action Plan” since the Spring 2021, but intense pressure exerted by industrial fishing lobbies has so far succeeded in delaying the release of this highly strategic roadmap. The Ocean Action Plan should propose system-changing measures allowing, at long last, to protect marine ecosystems and fisheries resources from impactful human activities, curb biodiversity loss, habitat destruction and climate change.

Just when EU Member States are convening next week in Brussels to agree on their common position with regards to the protection of nature ahead of the Fifteenth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Montreal, 5-17 December 2022), scientists stress that the EU governs “over the world’s largest maritime zone” and is therefore “in a unique position to lead the way by banning bottom trawling from its network of supposedly ‘protected’ areas”.

After a summer of droughts, fires, storms and flash floods, time has come for the European Commission to lead the way with its “Ocean Action Plan” and delineate a truly ambitious path for ocean conservation, departing from the disastrous current status quo. Likewise, EU member States should raise the bar of ocean conservation standards at the December Meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity and advocate for a minimum of 30% of true MPAs, including 10% of strictly protected no-take zones, reflecting the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

As of today, highly destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawlers, dredgers or demersal seiners are still authorized to operate within the EU’s so-called “Marine Protected Areas”, thus depleting marine biodiversity and releasing carbon dioxide from ocean sediments.

In 2020, the European Commission had already warned that less than 1% of European waters were strictly and effectively protected. The EU Court of Auditors similarly pointed out that “EU marine protected areas provide limited protection in practice”. A study even revealed that 86% of “protected” European waters were intensively trawled, while another scientific publication showed that in more than two thirds of the MPAs of Northern Europe, trawling was 1.4 times more intense inside the so-called “protected” area than outside

In light of this state of affairs, scientists highlight in their collective declaration that “the transition to low-impact fisheries, and the protection of 30% of the EU’s Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in MPAs by 2030 [including 10% in strictly protected (no-take) zones, which is a key mandate of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy], would help restore European marine biodiversity, replenish depleted European fisheries, resuscitate exhausted small-scale coastal fisheries and the livelihoods they support, and be easily financed by redirecting EU’s harmful fisheries subsidies”.

In 2021, the IPCC and IPBES warned in a co-sponsored report on biodiversity and climate change that “disturbance of previously undisturbed marine sediment carbon through trawling was estimated to release the equivalent of 15 to 20% of atmospheric CO2 absorbed annually by the ocean”.

Once again, science is clear. What we now need is strong, clear, concrete actions to save the climate and biodiversity.


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