Parliamentary resolution places nature at the core of good ocean governance, but omits impacts of domestic fisheries

Posted on 06 October 2022

In response to the European Commission communication on the global ocean agenda, the European Parliament has adopted its resolution on strengthening ocean governance and biodiversity. This document establishes the Parliament’s position for how EU and Member State actions should better safeguard our ocean and ensure a balance for human activities. 

Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at the WWF European Policy Office, said: “As Member States ramp up offshore renewable energy and finalise the EU Nature Restoration Law, the Parliament’s resolution cements nature’s place at the foundation of what drives these developments, calling on all Member States to deliver robust strategies for sustainable maritime activities and to ensure all damaging activities are kept out of protected areas. 

But EU fisheries have been mostly left out of the resolution, leaving a gaping hole in the Parliament’s position on what constitutes good ocean governance by the EU and its Member States. As overfishing continues to be one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss in European seas, Member States must urgently improve their implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy to deliver sustainable seafood to our dinner plates, halt the destruction and loss of nature, and support thriving fisheries in the long term.” 
 
 
  • On Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements, WWF welcomes the call for ensuring that financial support effectively benefits local fisheries and coastal communities. These funds, by lack of monitoring and transparency, are often redirected towards other political priorities in third countries, meaning fishing communities benefit very little from them. 
  • The resolution recognised that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a huge threat to sustainable fisheries and healthy ecosystems. WWF advocates for improved implementation of the EU IUU Fishing Regulation across Member States and to help inform the forthcoming EU forced labour ban which will also help tackle the issue. 
  • The resolution refers to the recent report from the European Court of Auditors which highlighted the discrepancies in import controls between Member States, and shed light on the risk of illegally-sourced seafood entering the EU market. WWF agrees that “that the effectiveness of control systems in place to combat illegal fishing is reduced by the uneven application of checks and sanctions by Member States” and calls for the ongoing revision of the EU Fisheries Control Regulation, currently in trilogues, to deliver tougher sanctions for rule-breakers. 
  • WWF welcomes the resolution’s calls on the Commission to “carry out and build on” socio-economic analyses of EU fishing communities to identify “appropriate support measures”. WWF research shows that half of EU fishers earn under national minimum wage across the EU and tax exemptions are fuelling unsustainable practices, putting the whole sector at risk.  
  • The resolution calls for full implementation of the “Maritime Spatial Planning Directive [...] through an integrated and ecosystem-based approach ensuring the protection of marine ecosystems”. This is pivotal in supporting the sustainable development of blue economy activities, including growing sectors like offshore renewable energy, while ensuring there is space for nature to thrive and recover.  
  • The resolution calls for EU Member States to protect at least 30% of EU marine areas, with strict protection for at least 10%, and the call to restore at least 30% of the EU’s land and seas. This position is critical to tackle the biodiversity crisis with a strong EU Nature Restoration Law and to ensure Member States deliver on the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. 
  • WWF welcomes the recognition of marine carbon habitats and the crucial need to integrate coastal  blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, tidal salt marshes and seagrasses) in the European Green Deal, which are currently missing from the overall picture. These coastal ecosystems can store carbon at rates two to four times higher than mature tropical forests
  • The resolution seeks “the prohibition of all environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities such mining and fossil fuel extraction in marine protected areas”, and outlines the need for the EU to transition, generally speaking, away from fossil fuels, in line with REPowerEU. This position is essential for the EU and its Member States to secure sustainable blue activities such as renewable energy deployment in line with the nature restoration and protection objectives of the Nature Restoration Law and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, respectively.