8:15 am, September 11, 2022, modified to 9:51 am, September 11, 2022
For several weeks the text has been circulating in research institutes and scientific academies all over the world. This “statement of support”, revealed by the JDD, was signed by 180 scientists before being sent to the European Commission. Researchers wonder “The ban on all destructive fishing methods and industrial activities in protected marine areas”.
This declaration aims to push the European Union to go further on this issue, ahead of the Conference on Biological Diversity organized in December in Canada, which is equivalent to a COP for biodiversity issues, and whose participation, initially planned in China, is been postponed several times by Covid. United Nations member states must agree on the percentage of ocean protection: 30 marine protected areas by 2030, of which 10% in strong protection.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), strong protection… these terms have been clearly defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); but they are interpreted differently in different states, with some granting permits for industrial activities or trawling.
Read also – EXCLUSIVE. Prince Albert II of Monaco at the JDD: “For the oceans we must act, and quickly! “
The scientists’ appeal to the EU comes when the Commission has had to present its “ocean action plan” since last spring, which has been constantly postponed. In their text, they recall that the EU rules ” the largest marine area in the world “And which therefore is” in a unique position to pave the way for a ban on trawling in its network of so-called marine protected areas. “
Scientists point out that “thea transition to low-impact fishing and the protection of 30% of the EU’s exclusive economic zone through a network of MPAs by 2030 (of which 10% through strictly protected marine areas, which is a key element of the strategy of ‘EU on biodiversity), would help restore European marine biodiversity, rebuild impoverished European fisheries, resurrect ailing small-scale inshore fishing and the livelihoods they sustain and would be easily financed by redirecting harmful EU fisheries subsidies ”.
For the JDD, Claire Nouvian, leader of the Bloom association that works for the protection of marine ecosystems and broadcasts the scientists’ appeal, explains the challenges of the negotiations.
Why are scientists making this call to Europe?
At the origin of this call is the Catalan researcher Enric Sala: he was a professor of oceanography at the University of California but left academic research to become an explorer in residence within the National Geographic Society. The planet has two lungs: the Amazon and the oceans. However, a recent study shows that the Amazon rainforest now emits more CO2 than it absorbs, and our second lung is also not doing well. In the oceans, plants, seagrass beds and mangroves store CO2 but also living biomass. However, we take more and more marine animals, it is a lifelong carnage. And some fishing methods remove carbon stored in marine sediments. When we trawl, we have a ballasted net that scrapes the bottom and that not only captures all animals without selection, but also destroys marine ecosystems and compromises their absorption capacity. The emergency among the emergencies is therefore that of having areas where nature can regenerate itself, through truly protected marine areas. It is a really effective solution.
Isn’t that the case in Europe today?
No, and we are far from the mark. At the European level, overall, we are less than 1% of the MPAs actually protected. According to a study, 86% of MPAs in Europe are trawled. There is a big gap between stated goals and reality. According to the IUCN criteria, there is no industrial activity in marine protected areas. You can fish there but only with artisanal fishing with boats of less than 12 meters and selective gear. The global target that will be negotiated during the Montreal Convention on Biological Diversity is 30% of marine areas protected under the IUCN, of which 10% under strong protection: for these, in English, we say “no take”, ie no take in these areas.
The silence of France, the first maritime power in Europe, is deafening
At the Brest summit last February, Emmanuel Macron announced that France has exceeded the 30% target, but this is totally false. This announcement was made possible by the publication, on the same day, of a decree on the doubling of the WAP in the Southern Ocean. But we call everything and everything AMP. In France, in protected marine areas, you can fish trawl, extract sand, install industrial infrastructure. We are far from the IUCN criteria! Emmanuel Macron also confirmed the 10% strong protection target, but a decree redefining what strong protection is and the public consultation was closed. He therefore took no risk in making ambitious strong protection announcements as he had already blocked the fact that it no longer meant anything. A strong French protection, in practice, everything is potentially allowed because nothing is expressly forbidden. France has the second largest maritime space in the world, we have lost our credibility! We have presented a gracious appeal against this decree, of which there is no news.
What do you expect from the European Union?
We are waiting for the famous action plan of the Commission for the oceans, which is an implementation of the EU biodiversity policy by 2030. But we have been waiting for it since last year! This blockade is not accidental, the industrial fishing lobbies are very present in Brussels. We are concerned because according to the version of the negotiating document that we were able to consult, only Belgium remembers the target of 30% of marine protected areas, of which 10% under strict protection. The silence of France, the first maritime power in Europe, is deafening. However, all scientists say so: the longer we wait, and the more this figure will have to be increased, the more it will cost us and the more difficult it will be to recover.