EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

Euroviews. As new MEPs set sail for Brussels, they should consider adopting an EU Ocean Deal

Two storks sit in their nest in the cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean in Cabo Sardao, March 2024
Two storks sit in their nest in the cliffs high above the Atlantic Ocean in Cabo Sardao, March 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of EU Ocean Policy, WWF
Published on Updated
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The bottom line is that the ocean's resilience is intricately linked to our own, and neglecting it is a disservice to ourselves and all life on Earth. Adopting an Ocean Deal isn't just an option, it's an urgent necessity, WWF's Dr Antonia Leroy writes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Newly elected and re-elected parliamentarians are embarking on their mandates in Brussels, setting up the European Parliament’s committees before a well-deserved summer break – possibly to somewhere along the coast to relax or maybe to enjoy a mocktail on the beach.

For now, amidst bustling corridors and while navigating the currents of parliamentary sessions, do the EU’s new decision-makers feel the profound environmental shifts lurking beneath the surface?

The European Environment Agency has declared the risks to coastal and marine ecosystems as the most severe to the continent, entailing the highest urgency to act. Europe is already experiencing a rise in sea level and record heat, with the three hottest years occurring since 2020.

European sea surface temperatures reaching up to 5.5°C above average last year isn’t only a coastal concern; the impacts ripple far beyond the shoreline and the millions of people employed in the EU blue economy. Human health and food supply chains, for example, are affected across the continent.

Yet, there's been a lack of decisive action to mitigate or adapt. Given that the combined marine territories of the EU member states form the largest maritime area on Earth, this lack of action is nearly absurd.

Sidelining what we hold dear

It's easy to take the ocean for granted. We admire the beauty of its colourful plants and charismatic animals in countless documentaries, indulge in its bounty of seafood delicacies that seemingly never leave shop shelves or menus no matter how far inland we are, seek solace on its tranquil shores in summer, and experience an inexplicable feeling of appeasement when we bathe in a sunrise or sunset on its horizon.

Behind these postcard moments lies a complex web of life that sustains creatures below water and on land alike.

The ocean is home to 80% of all life on our planet, produces half of its oxygen, regulates the climate, has absorbed over 90% of heat caused by our emissions, and provides a vital source of food and livelihood for almost half of the global population.

Just recently, European leaders have agreed on the EU’s strategic plan for the coming years in which they pledge to protect nature and reverse the destruction of ecosystems, including our ocean. This commitment looks promising on paper, so how will they put it into action?
People on the top of the Nazare lighthouse watch as waves break during a big wave surfing session at the Praia do Norte, or North beach, in Nazare, February 2017
People on the top of the Nazare lighthouse watch as waves break during a big wave surfing session at the Praia do Norte, or North beach, in Nazare, February 2017AP Photo/Armando Franca

Despite its undeniable importance, the ocean remains largely overlooked in EU policy-making and public consciousness. Marine issues are often sidelined in policy debates and environmental agendas; multiple institutional bodies and parliamentary committees need to review laws because there are no ocean-dedicated decision-making authorities; and blue conservation efforts remain much more underfunded and fragmented compared to their green counterparts.

The EU has two faces: it is a global ocean powerhouse but has no comprehensive political view on marine matters.

Just recently, European leaders have agreed on the EU’s strategic plan for the coming years in which they pledge to protect nature and reverse the destruction of ecosystems, including our ocean. This commitment looks promising on paper, so how will they put it into action?

An ecosystem-based approach to policymaking

The numbers are clear: Europe is standing on the precipice of irreparable damage to the world’s largest ecosystem. With its downfall, we lose the shared resources upon which we depend for food, defence and climate mitigation. A fundamental shift is urgently needed.

An overarching legal framework that ensures greater coherence between existing and new fisheries, transport, nature protection and restoration, energy, and sustainable tourism policies, and that looks beyond maritime activities – an Ocean Deal – could make a real difference.

Just as there is one ocean, it’s time for the EU’s diverse maritime policies to be handled under a singular view while better reflecting land-sea interactions.
People swim in the Atlantic Ocean in Biarritz, October 2021
People swim in the Atlantic Ocean in Biarritz, October 2021AP Photo/Bob Edme

Just as there is one ocean, it’s time for the EU’s diverse maritime policies to be handled under a singular view while better reflecting land-sea interactions. Specifically, we need an ecosystem-based approach to policymaking: one that puts nature at its core and prioritises the rights of future generations to a clean and healthy ocean.

By considering the diverse perspectives of all stakeholders across industries, communities, academia and civil society and giving due consideration to the cumulative impacts of our land and at-sea activities (for worse and for better), more effective and equitable strategies will emerge.

ADVERTISEMENT

This will secure the health, livelihoods, food security and well-being of EU citizens in a fair and equitable way. We need an ambitious ocean agenda that helps both societies and ecosystems to adapt and recover in a changing climate.

Our planet's largest ecosystem deserves it

The bottom line is that the ocean's resilience is intricately linked to our own, and neglecting it is a disservice to ourselves and all life on Earth.

As the major steward of the largest ecosystem on the planet, the EU urgently requires a proactive blue approach to climate action to halt the breakdown of marine life and safeguard its blue economy.

As the decision-makers chosen by EU citizens set sail in Brussels, it is paramount that they recognise the pivotal role the ocean plays for our well-being — both physical and economic — and establish it as a strategic and political priority.

ADVERTISEMENT

Adopting an Ocean Deal isn't just an option. It's an urgent necessity for safeguarding our blue planet, delivering socioeconomic stability and securing a thriving future for generations to come.

Dr Antonia Leroy is Head of EU Ocean Policy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

Share this articleComments

You might also like