How healthy is your sea?

EU Member states are yet to settle on criteria to reach 2020 targets for healthy seas. Photo: Castgen/Flickr
The sea in Calabria, Italy. EU Member states are yet to settle on a new criteria to reach 2020 targets for healthy seas. Photo: Castgen/Flickr

How healthy is the sea you swim in when on vacation? That’s a question many EU Member States have been trying to answer. And it is not just about understanding chemical or plastic pollution, but also if the nature is ‘balanced’.

In 2008, the EU decided that it should have a common strategy to achieve healthy seas. In applying this common strategy, Member States set targets that they sought to reach by 2020. They then laid out their plans – with detailed actions and monitoring measures – to be implemented by 2015.

Fast forward to 2015, and Member States have encountered several road blocks preventing them from being on track to achieving “healthy seas”. The EU is now tasked with revisiting the efforts to set ambitious targets, sufficient actions, and efficient monitoring programmes and see what can still be changed to guide Member States to achieve healthy seas by 2020.

For example, one of the components that tells us if we have healthy seas is the state of the marine biodiversity. So monitoring and protecting seabirds is one way to promote the health of our seas.

Tasked by the European Commission to analyse what else can be changed to help Member States achieve a healthy marine biodiversity by 2020, the Joint Research Centre has been working on recommendations. Today marks the end of a 2.5 day workshop of experts from Member States and stakeholders to finalise these recommendations.

The recommendations agree that the current criteria Member States used to assess their whole marine biodiversity is not sufficient and sometimes not appropriate. Getting the assessment correct is fundamental for Member States to progress in implementing useful actions to achieve healthy seas – otherwise they will continue to evaluate our seas as being ok, when they are actually deteriorating.

Plus, assessing real progress in improving our seas is what we really want! Who wants to pretend that swimming in a dead zone is healthy?

Bruna Campos – EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe – bruna.campos@birdlife.org

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