Coasts and seas
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Human activities are causing unprecedented environmental changes for coastal and marine ecosystems. Pressures from fishing, pollution from land- and sea-based sources, urbanisation, loss and degradation of valuable habitat, and invasions of non-native species are growing worldwide. All these impacts are likely to be exacerbated by the changing climate. More
- Key facts and messages
- Exploitation of European seas and coasts is increasing as new industries emerge and traditional ones move further off-shore. The main pressures include: extraction of species and genetic resources, seafloor exploitation, pollution and the spread... more
- Seas and oceans act as a coherent ecosystem. Across all of Europe's regional seas, marine biodiversity is in poor condition: only 7% of marine species assessments indicate 'favourable conservation status'. Effects of climate change (e.g. acidification)... more
- Effective policy implementation can reduce impacts. For example, for several stocks the number of fish caught at 'maximum sustainable yield' levels continues to increase, suggesting healthier stocks. more
- In calling for an ecosystem-based approach, the EU's Blue Growth Strategy recognises the balance that must be achieved between 'use' of the sea and achieving the objective of 'good environmental status' by 2020. more
Europe´s seas are under pressure. Marine protected areas (MPAs) can act as a key management measures to safeguard marine ecosystems and biodiversity so to maintain their potential to deliver key services to our societies and economies. European countries have been extending marine protected areas across Europe’s seas. More effective management of these marine protected areas and a convergent implementation of related legislation now constitute important challenges. A new report by the European Environment Agency assesses the progress made and concludes with perspectives for the future.
Climate change is warming the oceans, causing acidification of marine environments, and changing rainfall patterns. This combination of factors often exacerbates the impacts of other human pressures on the seas, leading to loss of marine biodiversity. Many human livelihoods depend on marine biodiversity and ecosystems, so action to limit ocean warming must be taken quickly.
Litter, plastics in particular, is accumulating in our seas and coasts. Information and data on marine litter is essential for tackling it. The European Environment Agency has developed Marine LitterWatch to strengthen Europe’s knowledge base and thus provide support to European policy making.
Litter, plastics in particular, is accumulating in our seas and coasts mainly due to current unsustainable consumption and production patterns, poor waste management and the lack of public awareness. Marine litter is an increasing threat to the marine environment, to human health and our well-being. It has cross border impacts on wildlife and habitats. Without tackling marine litter, Europe cannot have healthy seas.
Our consumption and production patterns generate waste, a part of which ends up as litter in our oceans. Why is preventing marine litter important for the environment and the health of our seas in particular? What is Europe doing to prevent marine litter? We asked these questions to Constança Belchior, who works on marine assessments and impacts of marine litter at the European Environment Agency.
This European Environment Agency (EEA) technical report presents an overview of the 2012 spatial distribution of the networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) established in the waters of EU), excluding overseas territories.
Europe's seas are under pressure. Marine protected areas (MPAs) can act as a key conservation measure to safeguard marine ecosystems and biodiversity as well as the services these ecosystems provide. The report provides an overview on progress made to date in establishing MPAs and MPA networks in Europe's seas, specifically MPAs reported by European Union (EU) Member States up to and including 2012. It also discusses how best to assess the effectiveness of these MPAs and determine their effectiveness in protecting biodiversity across Europe's seas.
The main aim of this report is to assess whether Europe's seas can be considered healthy, clean and undisturbed, and productive. These are three core aspects of the EU's main marine policy instrument — the Marine Strategy Framework Directive — and relate to the condition of marine ecosystems and the human drivers of ecosystem change. This assessment also involves identifying the main sustainability challenges affecting our seas, and how the EU is responding to these challenges. Ultimately, the report argues that EU is not on the path to fulfil its ambition of achieving sustainable use of its seas; although it is fully empowered to do so through the current array of policies and knowledge. This report also discusses how a long-term transition to sustainability could then be secured using the available policies and knowledge.
Europe's seas are home to a rich and diverse array of species, habitats and ecosystems. Although vital for Europe's economic and social wellbeing, many of these ecosystems risk being irreversibly damaged by human activities. 'Marine messages', a briefing from the European Environment Agency (EEA), provides an overview of the current state-of-affairs of European seas and our use of them. It argues that economic activities including transport, fishing, offshore energy and tourism should be better managed so that they ensure sustainable health of marine ecosystems.