Letter to EU leaders demanding protected oceans

Life, saver
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52 non-governmental organisations have written to EU leaders calling them to take action to protect the ocean, as well as cutting CO2 emissions, in the face of climate breakdown.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) launches in Monaco, 52 non-governmental organisations have written to European leaders calling on them to show leadership by acting to protect the ocean, as well as urgently cutting CO2 emissions, in the face of climate breakdown.

The letter states:

“The ocean plays a critical role in human health and the health of the planet. It buffers us against the worst impacts of climate breakdown, generates the oxygen we breathe, and provides sustenance and livelihoods for people across the world. The ocean protects and provides for us all…

The climate crisis is not limited to land. There is much that can and must be done to protect the ocean, the largest habitat on Earth, so that it can continue to protect us. We urgently need to boost the ocean’s chances of survival in the face of climate breakdown by removing the stressors that are within our reach.”

The letters call on EU leaders to:

  • End overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. All EU Institutions and member states must implement and enforce in full the Common Fisheries Policy, specifically the deadline to end overfishing by 2020.
  • Put in place a robust High Seas Treaty by the end of 2020.
  • Protect at least thirty percent of the ocean through implemented, highly and fully Protected Areas by the end of 2030, with the remaining 70 percent of the ocean sustainably managed.
  • Protect the deep ocean, through a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining.

The IPCC special report conveys what marine scientists and NGOs have been saying for years: that the ocean is crumbling under an onslaught of needless stressors from overfishing to pollution, compounded by climate breakdown.

Ending overfishing and protecting marine areas are essential climate actions that will protect habitats and biodiversity, replenish fish populations and marine food webs, improve the cycling and sequestering of carbon, and build ocean resilience to withstand dangerous climate change. Taking these actions is an opportunity for EU leaders to demonstrate their commitment to restoring the planet’s greatest source of life, and key to delivering a new European Green Deal that protects nature and communities.

“The ocean cannot infinitely support our current way of life if we keep piling on pressure while demanding that it produce the oxygen we breathe, feed us, and absorb excess heat and CO2. Even the great ocean has limits and we’re currently pushing far beyond them. Ending overfishing will alleviate one of the biggest stresses on the ocean, by increasing its resilience in the face of climate breakdown. The EU can deliver a stronger new Green Deal for Europeans by taking immediate decisive action to end all overfishing in response to the climate emergency,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Program Director of Our Fish.

Sofia Tsenikli, Senior Strategist at Greenpeace International said: ”It’s clear the climate crisis is also an ocean crisis. The EU and its member states must take decisive steps to ditch fossil fuels and submit plans to stay below 1.5℃ by next year. They must also push for a strong Global Ocean Treaty in 2020 that establishes and protects a global network of ocean sanctuaries, completely off-limits to human exploitation. If done right, this could lead to the protection of at least 30% of our oceans by 2030.”

Monica Verbeek, Executive Director at Seas At Risk said: “The ocean’s living creatures are an excellent carbon sponge. If the ocean is thriving with diverse life it is better placed to cope with the inevitable harsh attacks coming from the climate crisis. To restore the health of our ocean, we need to reduce the pressure of human activities and at the same time provide marine life with fully protected safe havens where it can recover. The IPCC report is a strong reminder of the urgency to implement the EU Marine Directive, that commits Member States to restore the health of EU seas by 2020.”

“The deep sea plays a major role in climate change mitigation through capturing and storing CO2. By absorbing accumulated heat, the deep sea slows the warming on land. Yet this realm is highly vulnerable,” said Sian Owen, Coordinator for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “Deep-sea mining will cause effectively permanent biodiversity loss and generate plumes, toxins, light and noise that could impact marine life far beyond actual mining sites. European Parliament adopted a resolution in 2018, calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining until the environmental risks are fully understood. The EU must take this commitment seriously.”

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