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Making ocean protection a European priority

2024 will be a pivotal year for the Ocean. Important elections are taking place this year: the European elections.
Citizens of the entire continent will be called upon to elect their new representatives to the European Parliament for a new 5-year term. These representatives will assume the weighty responsibility of providing solutions to the triple crisis affecting our planet: climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution.
The Ocean is at the forefront of this crisis: it serves as one of our planet’s two lungs, and it also contains the greatest reservoir of biodiversity on earth. It is nevertheless being devastated by pollution, subject to human pressures and the unfortunate spillway of our societies.
Now, more than ever, is the time to take a stand for the Ocean and the biodiversity it shelters.

Blue Up 2024: Surfrider presents its report to Parliament

A few weeks ago, Surfrider presented a hard-hitting report resulting from the citizen-based consultation “It’s Bluedy Time Europe!” launched at the start of 2023. This initiative gathered nearly 400 contributions from concerned citizens and experts passionate about the future of our Ocean. This document was presented by Kacper Kociumbas, ambassador of the Eurocean’s Youth network, on behalf of the Blue Up 2024! Coalition, at an event organized by the European Parliament in order to bring together initial proposals for a more effectively protected Ocean.

The consultation report covers a wide range of issues, including pollution, the blue economy, climate change, biodiversity and health. It reflects the many concerns of citizens about the future of the seas and ocean. Through a series of concrete proposals, it aims to inspire future members of the European Parliament to place ocean protection at the forefront of their actions.

Today, the European Union’s efforts are central to the debate of the protection of seas and oceans. With its ability to accelerate the transition to a sustainable blue economy, to set targets and obligations for the preservation of marine areas, and to ban harmful activities on land and at sea, the EU holds the power to act decisively.

With this in mind, a number of events are planned in the build-up period to the 2024 elections, including a debate in the spring that will bring together candidates to discuss what Europe can undertake in the next five years to protect the Ocean. To maintain the pressure and refine the citizen-based proposals collected, briefings will be sent to newly elected officials to inform them of concrete measures to be taken for a healthy Ocean. A training course on the Ocean and its current crisis will be organized in the fall. Throughout 2024, Surfrider will continue to influence European decision-makers to take concrete action to preserve the Ocean.

It is crucial to recognize the power in our hands: the power to vote. The individuals we elect have a direct impact on the future of European politics and policies. By sharing the citizens’ report and actively participating in political parties’ consultation meetings, we can shape their agendas and their commitments to include ocean protection.

Read the report and discover the BLUE UP 2024 campaign here 👉

Protecting the Ocean: the forgotten blue component in Europe’s Green Deal

In 2019, the European Union launched its flagship initiative, the European Green Deal, an ambitious roadmap to transform the economy and society to achieve harmonious coexistence with nature. Its aim is to position Europe as the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. However, despite this laudable objective, the Ocean remains largely neglected in this endeavor.

It is critical that the Ocean remains at the core of these environmental objectives. The EU collectively holds the largest maritime territory in the world, yet its marine biodiversity is in peril as a direct result of excessive and irresponsible exploitation and unsustainable human pressures. The absence of a specific commitment towards the Ocean in the European Green Deal is a gap that needs to be filled as a matter of urgency.

In response, several NGOs (BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, ClientEarth, Oceana, Seas At Risk, the WWF European Policy Office, and Surfrider Foundation Europe) have jointly drafted a manifesto. This document aims to inspire and encourage European institutions to step up their commitment to a healthy Ocean.

The manifesto presents three essential initiatives to promote ocean protection:

  1. Adopt a global and ambitious agreement on the Ocean at European level This agreement must harmonize existing and future legislation around a common objective: to protect the Ocean. It must ensure coherence between various sector-specific policies and set ambitious targets for achieving a healthy ecological status of the EU’s seas.
  2. Create a European Ocean Fund This fund would be dedicated to the restoration and long-term conservation of the marine environment, promote a just transition of ocean-related economic sectors towards sustainable activities, and reduce harmful subsidies.
  3. Putting the Ocean at the heart of EU decision-making The creation of an Ocean Committee within the European Parliament would overcome the current compartmentalized approach to policy-making. This would ensure that protection of the Ocean is taken into account when formulating policies impacting the marine environment.

These proposals are vital if we are to move towards a healthy and resilient Ocean during the next European mandate. However, much remains to be accomplished to ensure ocean protection as a priority within the EU.

During Ocean Week last June, Surfrider Foundation and its partners shared their annual assessment of EU action towards the Ocean. This assessment compared the EU’s actions in 2022 with the priorities defined by NGOs in the Blue Manifesto.

Among the key topics adressed in this assessment are EU directives that Surfrider Europe is focusing its advocacy efforts on in Brussels. These include the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, the Bathing Water Directive, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Zero Pollution Action Plan, the Single-Use Plastics Directive, and the Maritime Safety Package.

To uphold its dedication to the Ocean, the EU must not merely express intentions but must translate them into impactful legislation. This is essential, considering the urgent necessity to protect this vital ecosystem for the entire planet.