Our oceans might seem like an endless expanse of life and beauty.
But beneath all that blue is a fragile, finite ecosystem under unprecedented pressure from a malevolent force quite literally turning up the heat on marine life — yep, you guessed it, that’s us: the human race.
Now, the European Union (EU) does have a plan, of sorts, to reverse the damage already done — called the EU Biodiversity Strategy. However, environmental groups are protesting a distinct lack of progress, putting forward their own 10-point action plan to kickstart the process of averting biodiversity catastrophe.
Here’s the problem: the EU strategy is partly a plan for a plan, adopted in 2020 to come up with a framework in 2021. There are ambitious goals for 2030 and 2050, but no clear targets due to be set until the end of this year.
Meanwhile, the coalition of environmental organizations, including Greenpeace and ClientEarth, has insisted that preexisting laws haven’t been enforced either. The clock is ticking: while the climate crisis continues to endanger biodiversity, the groups argue that the current pace of efforts is just nowhere near good enough.
So they’ve set up their own roadmap, including a demand to ban bottom trawling — a form of fishing that drags large nets along the bottom of the sea floor, a method that often accidentally catches unintended fish in the crossfire — in specially protected areas.
It also insists on a target to protect at least 30% of oceans by 2030, with financial commitments to extend and enforce existing laws, according to the Guardian; and calls for limits on fishing that accounts for the climate crisis. Other demands in their plan include a reduction in underwater noise pollution and environmental impact assessments.
Check out the whole list of actions in the report here, first published in November 2020.
We know it: biodiversity loss is closely linked to the emergence of pandemics.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 11, 2021
We need to act urgently, globally and locally.
Cooperating for our ‘One Planet’ is essential for our health.#OnePlanetSummitpic.twitter.com/omHndUsQat
The EU itself has also admitted that it must do better.
A draft report from the European Parliament, looking at the EU’s global agreements and own biodiversity objectives due to be met in 2020, found that it had succeeded in neither area. Now, the environmental groups want action, not words, to ensure such a failure is never repeated.
“What we really need to do is go from strategies and goals to action and outcomes,” said Rebecca Hubbard, program director of Our Fish, an organization that campaigns against overfishing and is part of the environmental coalition petitioning the EU.
She added: “National pledges, goals, and agreements are important for setting a direction but if we are going to save the planet we need action.”