October 24, 2005
EU Launches New Measures to Protect Seas, Oceans
By Jeff Mason
BRUSSELS -- Climate change, oil spills and commercial fishing have put oceans and seas at risk, driving the EU's executive branch to launch new measures to clean up and protect waters surrounding the European Union.
The measures to protect and conserve the "marine environment," guard against the loss of biodiversity and boost industries that depend on clean water include requirements that EU member states draw up studies of water conditions as well as targets for improvement and monitoring programs.
"The marine environment is deteriorating fast," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told a news conference.
The EU executive argues healthier conditions in seas and oceans could lead to better fishing harvests and more swimming areas for tourists.
The Commission strategy would also generate opportunities for research and ensure sound environmental standards for energy companies searching for new sources of oil and gas.
"Estimates suggest that by 2080, between 13 percent and 25 percent of the world's coastal wetlands could be lost due to sea level rise alone," the Commission said. "Tourism would be severely hit by the degradation of marine ecosystems."
It said a failure to do more to prevent oil spills would cost more than 1 billion euros.
The Commission expects implementation to cost 90 million euros over the first two years and 70 million euros a year after that. "The benefits are many times more than the costs," Dimas said.
The proposals include a draft law that would require the EU's 25 member states to work together and draw up plans to protect waters like the Baltic Sea, the North-East Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
The draft law must be passed by the European Parliament and member states before it enters into force.
A group of environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF and Oceana criticized the Commission's proposals and called on the other EU institutions to strengthen them.
"It is now the responsibility of the European Parliament and Council (of member states) to set legally binding objectives within this Directive, including a clear definition of what constitutes a healthy sea," the groups said in a statement.