Milestone victory for the ocean in the European Parliament

Tension is rising in the European Parliament as the plenary vote on the Nature Restoration Law, scheduled for 12 July in Strasbourg, approaches. The 705 MEPs will vote on this fundamental text setting the European Union’s ambition for the future of ecosystems: the goal is to restore 20% of nature by 2030 and all degraded ecosystems by 2050.  

Two days ago, two amendments which could generate immediate benefits for Europe’s seas and coastal fishers were tabled by MEP Younous Omarjee (The Left-GUE). If these measures, supported by MEPs from various political groups such as Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D) and Catherine Chabaud (Renew), were to be adopted along with the law on 12 July, they would effectively address two of the EU’s major problems: the fact that so-called marine “protected” areas are not protected at all, and that huge industrial fishing vessels are allowed to come in and devastate Europe’s coastal waters, destroying marine ecosystems while wiping out Europe’s coastal fishers through perfectly unfair competition.   

The stakes for the ocean, nature and the climate are so high that they prompted the activists Camille Etienne and Adélaïde Charlier to come to the Parliament on July 5 to ensure that amendments for the ocean were tabled.   

Now that this first milestone has been reached, the citizen mobilization focuses on the plenary vote, where the stakes are immense.  

So far, the Nature Restoration Law was rejected during the votes in the Committees (on Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment) by an anti-ecological alliance of the conservative Right and the far Right, supported by the liberal Right (the Renew group). The political groups are now under direct pressure from citizens. When climate change is no longer a threat but a tangible reality, these citizens cannot understand how it is possible to delay the measures that would put a stop to the ongoing disaster.

On 5 July, the activists Camille Etienne (France) and Adélaïde Charlier (Belgium) decided to take matters into their own hands: in support of BLOOM’s mobilization at the European Parliament, they worked to table ambitious amendments to protect and restore the ocean.

We succeeded.

MEPs responded positively to this citizen mobilization, which made it possible, in extremis, to table two key amendments to immediately protect and restore Europe’s wrecked marine ecosystems thanks to MEP Younous Omarjee as well as the transpartisan support of MEPs from the political groups of the Left (The Left), the Socialists (S&D), the Ecologists (Greens), the Liberal Right (Renew) and the Conservative Right (EPP).

From left to right, the MEP Younous Omarjee, Camille Etienne, Adélaïde Charlier, Claire Nouvian. 

On the evening of 4 July, French artist Joanie Lemercier opened the citizen mobilization by projecting a call to save the ocean and nature on the European Parliament.

The amendments defended by the BLOOM team and by the activists Camille Etienne and Adélaïde Charlier were supported by numerous MEPs like Raphaël Glucksmann, Catherine Chabaud, Aurore Lalucq, etc.

At a time when the average surface temperature on Earth broke an all-time record this week, when the Antarctic ice sheet coverage is declining like never before, and when the Atlantic Ocean is experiencing an unprecedented marine heatwave, two crucial and immediately effective amendments have been tabled and will be put to the vote in the Strasbourg plenary session on Wednesday 12 July.

The aim of the amendments is to:

1) Create true marine protected areas in Europe by banning destructive fishing methods within them.

A necessary measure given the revolting imposture of marine “protected” areas (MPAs): while MPAs are recognized by the intergovernmental panels on climate change and biodiversity (IPCC and IPBES) as urgent measures to combat global warming and the disappearance of biodiversity, 86% of Europe’s supposedly “protected” marine areas are exploited by trawlers. It is even more prevalent in France, where industrial vessels fish almost half of the time within so-called marine “protected” areas. This overall failure goes against all scientific recommendations and the demands of European citizens, 79% of whom are in favor of truly protecting the marine environment.

The amendment tabled by Younous Omarjee provides an immediate remedy to this situation. The status quo demonstrates a real lack of concern in the face of the climate crisis, despite the fact that the ocean, the Earth’s main lung, captures almost a third of our CO2 emissions and is an essential carbon pump.

2) Protect fishers and coastal ecosystems from the ravages of super trawlers and industrial vessels by reserving the EU coastal zone (12 nautical miles) to fishing vessels under 25 meters.

Fishing vessels under 25 meters represent 97% of the European fishing fleet and 82% of employment, but land only 28% of total catches. [1] This is because industrial fleets and super trawlers, designed for offshore fishing, are allowed to fish in coastal waters. Unfair competition and the plundering of EU waters are taking place before our very eyes, as these mobile industrial fleets methodically siphon the waters one site after another, leaving behind a desert. In France, the Normandy Regional Fisheries Committee demands, among other things, to limit access to the English Channel to vessels below 25 meters long. The European Parliament made no mistake by adopting a resolution in January 2023 stressing that the “viability of small-scale fishing critically depends on secure access to resources and fishing areas” and calling for “a differentiated approach to the management of small-scale fishing that includes priority access to inshore fishing areas”. [2]

This amendment would immediately enshrine in European law a common-sense measure to put an end to this unfair competition, and protect the ecosystems, jobs and economy of our coasts from industrial fleets that roam across the ocean without a single thought for the state of the ecosystems they leave behind.

The opportunity to respond to the catastrophic climate crisis, the collapse of biodiversity and the disappearance of inshore fishing as a result of industrial fishing, is therefore within our grasp.

However, following the disastrous votes that took place in recent weeks in the Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Committees due to an unprecedented and shameful anti-ecological alliance between the far Right, the conservative Right and the liberal Right, the outcome of the vote is more than uncertain.

In the next few days, the Presidents and MEPs in charge of this regulation within the various European political groups will give their voting recommendations on the adoption of the Law and of the tabled amendments. At this stage, the future of the ocean and coastal fishing therefore depends on a “+” or “-” on the voting lists produced by the political groups.

Climate activists and BLOOM are calling on the political groups to make these voting lists public, in order to analyze the recommendations given to MEPs.   

The questions the group presidents must answer in the next few days are simple, but crucial for the future of nature, climate and the ocean:

  1. Will the political groups unambiguously support the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law?
  2. Will the political groups unambiguously support the two amendments concerning marine protected areas and the protection of ecosystems and coastal fishers?

With one year to go before the European elections, the RENEW group, which has the power to make or break majorities thanks to its central position on the European parliamentary chessboard, plays a major role in deciding how the Parliament will respond to this debate.   

Stéphane Séjourné, President of the RENEW group, is responsible for ensuring his group’s unwavering support for these amendments and for the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law.

This is the only position compatible with the environmental commitment promised by the RENEW group in 2019 concerning the European Green Deal.

Share :