European Maritime Day is an annual celebration of Europe’s diverse maritime community and this year marks its 10th anniversary. Over the years the conference has endeavoured to be a platform to spark change in issues ranging from the fight against illegal fishing and protecting habitat to developing effective regional strategies and growing the blue economy.
This year the theme for European Maritime Day is ‘Future of our Seas’. It’s one that comes at a time when our understanding of the cause and effect of human activity really leaves us in no doubt that our dysfunctional relationship with the sea needs to change today if we’re to avoid a complete breakdown tomorrow.
Here’s some of the big challenges facing the future our seas.
Dealing with Marine Plastic & Pollution
The terrible truth is our oceans are choking with plastic and pollution. Millions of tonnes of rubbish end up in our oceans every year and 90% of all floating rubbish is plastic. If we’re really serious about protecting the future of our oceans and cleaning up the mess we’ve already made we need to change our habits today.
The challenge here is not only to stem the flow of plastics into the sea but reverse it and undo the mess already made. It will take a serious effort but it can be achieved.
Check out these 5 simple changes you can make today for cleaner seas
Ending Overfishing Once and for All
A recent report by the EU’s Red List highlighted pollution and overfishing as the most serious marine habitat pressures.
The problem used to be we were taking too much fish from the sea. The solution was to make sure we were only taking so much out of the water and that fish stocks were allowed to maintain a healthy size. This had the unfortunate consequence of changing the game from one of quantity to quality. Now fish are being caught and thrown back into to the sea if they’re not considered of high enough quality. It’s a process called high-grading and it means lots of catches are going unreported.
The problem of overfishing is one that if left alone can solve itself but will do so at great expense to all involved. The challenge is to avoid this outcome and provide stability instead.
Remembering the Benefits of Cooperation
It’s a rocky time for working together. Lots of nations seem to be having one of those seemingly recurring historical moments where it’s more politically advantageous to denounce cooperation than further the useful ties that bind and hold us to higher ideals.
The biggest unknown for the future of Europe’s waters politically is what changes Brexit will bring. Certainly red tape, tariffs and new barriers to trade. But what about efforts to deal internationally with manmade issues like marine pollution and overfishing? We just don’t know and that’s not good enough.
The simple truth is the future of our seas, the health and integrity of it ecosystems and its use as a resource is entirely dependent upon countries working together. The great challenge of our time will be to enhance our cooperative efforts at a moment when there are powerful forces driving us apart.