Measures will miss 2020 clean and healthy seas target says European Commission

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 1 August 2018

The goal of biologically diverse, clean and healthy seas by 2020 is unlikely to be reached because measures put in place by Member States, under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, are weak and need to be far more ambitious.

Euro beach litter
© Bo Eide

Several measures could maybe help us on the way to reaching this target.

Dr Sue Kinsey,
MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer

Those are the findings of a new report from the European Commission which says “achieving good environmental status by 2020 across all European marine regions remains unlikely”. The report says it’s due to a number of weaknesses in the programmes of measures by member states, and gaps in coordination between countries.

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, says the UK’s claim that it will reach Good Environmental Status for litter by 2020, is off the mark: “Even given the very vague target set of an ‘overall reduction in the number of visible litter items within specific categories/types on coastlines’, at the present rate of progress this seems extremely optimistic and I believe will not be achieved.

“Several measures could help us on the way to reaching this target. First and foremost the introduction of a comprehensive Deposit Refund System that includes all containers of all materials and sizes.

“To be most effective this needs to be a system that is integrated across the UK. The introduction of taxes and charges on single use items such as cups and straws, bans on others such as plastic stemmed cotton buds, polystyrene and black plastic packing and the introduction of mandatory recycled content in products and expanded producer responsibility system in the UK - where producers truly pay for the collection, disposal and recycling of their products - would greatly help us reach this goal . But to be effective by 2020, these measures are going to have to brought in urgently and implemented quickly or we will have no chance of achieving clean seas and beaches in the UK in the remotely near future.”

Alice Belin, from Seas At Risk, an umbrella organisation of environmental NGOs from across Europe, says member states need to be far more ambitious: ” “With less than two years to go before 2020, the measures put in place by Member States to tackle one of the biggest environmental problems today, the degrading health of our seas, are extremely weak in the face of the challenge.

“Our own analysis of the measures needed to stop overfishing and tackle the plastics issue clearly showed that Member States need to take much more ambitious action to save our seas, including entirely rethinking our production and consumption systems.”

Whilst the Commission report commends Member States for their endeavours, it points to shortcomings in their approach to tackling pollution and the loss of marine biodiversity, such as fragmented efforts to address transboundary problems.

The report says that only a quarter of the measures put forward by Member States are new, while others are actions that were already due to be undertaken by individual members, many of which are not yet actioned.

Seas at Risk suggest that less than half of Member States believe that their measures will lead to clean and healthy seas by 2020, setting themselves up for failure before even trying.

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Did you know?…

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

MCS first launched the Good Beach Guide in 1987 as a book to highlight the woeful state of the UK’s bathing waters