In parts of Europe, the very structures and functions of seas are being jeopardised. The Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea are three of the seven world marine regions where fish stocks are in greatest need of recovery. The ecology of the Baltic region is reckoned to have “crashed” and to be locked into permanent eutrophication. This is due to pressures from sea-bed activities like oil and gas exploration, dredging and extraction of sand and gravel, shipping, commercial fisheries and tourism.
However, land-based activities (agriculture andindustry in general) account for 80% of marine pollution. These pressures are exacerbated by the increasing impacts of climate change: rise in sea-water temperatures and acidifi cation of oceans. The resultant changes in salinity will aff ect certain marine species. The increased temperatures could disturb the reproductive cycles of species and thereforetheir distribution. The abundance and distribution of fish could be aff ected. Evidence suggests that the reproduction and growth of North Sea cod has been influenced by the warming of the North Sea over the past ten years.
Urgent eff orts are needed to safeguard the long-term productivity of economic and social activities such as fisheries, maritime transport, agriculture, industry, tourism, and coastal and regional development.
The policy context
At EU level, protection measures have been adopted, but most of them are sectoral and were not designed specifically for the marine environment. Some Member States have adopted measures of their own, but national measures do not apply to the other countries bordering a given marine area.