WWF Report on Saving the Oceans, the World’s Seventh Largest Economy

Science tells us that we are pushing natural limits on climate, biodiversity, nutrient cycles, freshwater and ocean health. While research has never been clearer on defining planetary boundaries, society has never positioned itself so closely to the edge. There is growing recognition of the state of our natural systems is leading to greater integration of economic, social and environmental principles—as evident in the work to develop a set of global Sustainable Development Goals.
More businesses are implementing responsible practices and there is a lively debate around the green and circular economy. The recent report,Reviving the Ocean Economy, conservatively estimates the ocean’s annual economic output to be US$2.5trn. Compared to national GDPs, this makes the ocean the world’s seventh largest economy. A separate WWF analysis makes the case for investing in marine protected areas by showing that each dollar spent returns at least three.
The steps to be taken are complex but clear. Wasteful and destructive fishing methods must be stopped, overcapacity cut and sustainable management of marine resources incentivised. Marine protected areas and support for sustainable aquaculture are also important. To protect the ocean, pollution and climate change for warming and acidification must be addressed.
Further information

  • Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action – 2015

    PDF 46.16 MB

  • Reviving the Ocean Economy Summary

    PDF 14.08 MB

SOER 2015 — The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Source: EEA

The synthesis report informs future European environmental policy in general and its implementation between 2015 and 2020 in particular. It includes a reflection on the European environment in a global context, as well as chapters summarising the state of, trends in, and prospects for the environment in Europe.

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Electric pulse fishing occurring extensively in Europe’s northern seas under guise of scientific research with little knowledge of impacts on commercial species and ecosystems

The pulse trawl: electrodes in the two direction of the gear cause an electric field above the seabed, which stimulate the flatfish so that come up and end up in the net.

Fishing in Europe with poisons, explosives and electricity is banned. But the commission has gradually been rescinding the ban on using electricity. It began with one or two boats, then in 2010, after ferocious lobbying by the government of the Netherlands, 5% of the Dutch trawler fleet was allowed to use this technique. In 2012 the proportion was raised to 10%. Eighty-five massive Dutch supertrawlers have now been equipped with electric pulse gear, at a cost of around £300,000 per ship. Over the past few months, the UK government has licensed a further 12 ships. These are registered in the UK and fly the Union flag, which means that they are allowed to fish within our 12-mile limit, but according to some in the fishing industry at least some of the boats have been financed and equipped by Dutch companies.

Pulse trawling, as the technique is known, uses electricity to flush flatfish or shrimp out of the sediments in which they hide. The electric shock makes them convulse and flip upwards, into the net. Electric fishing can greatly increase the catch of these species. The industry and the Dutch and British governments claim that this technique is less damaging than conventional beam trawling. There has so far been no serious effort to discover what the impacts of repeated electric shocks might be on any of the animal communities of the sea: those that live in the open water, on the seabed or under it. The tiny amount of research conducted so far has involved just a few species in fish tanks and, one poorly-designed and inconclusive study at sea.

Yet these 97 ships (85 Dutch, 12 British) have been licensed to operate across the entire southern North Sea: in other words, from Kent to Schleswig-Holstein, Edinburgh to Jutland. This includes the region’s Special Area of Conservation: Dogger Bank. Special Areas of Conservation are supposed to confer the highest level of protection of any European wildlife sites. Thanks to a veto by the Dutch government, every part of the Dogger Bank and its remarkable habitats remains open to beam trawling – and now electric fishing – and this area is ripped up on a daily basis.

By 2014, the pulse trawlers were already operating across the whole southern North Sea at greater intensity even than the traditional beam trawling fleet, with the exception of the seas within the 12-mile national limits around Britain, Germany and Denmark. With the licensing of the 12 British boats, our inshore waters will now also be exploited, including the two Special Areas of Conservation in England’s North Sea territorial waters: the North Norfolk sandbanks and the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton reefs and banks, also off the coast of Norfolk.

So what possible justification does the commission give for permitting this mass deployment of an untested technology? Oh yes. It’s a “trial” for the purpose of “scientific research”. The commission tells me that the trial is “envisaged to last for five years.” The Dutch government explains that this “research programme” will study “the selectivity of the pulse trawl and the environmental benefits of leaving the seabed undamaged”. Note that it says nothing about the possible downsides. It already assumes that the technique is beneficial and undamaging.Given that the experimental area extends to the whole of the southern North Sea, what kind of an experiment is this? What’s the hypothesis? What’s the methodology? Where’s the control? How will the results be measured? When asked what conditions it had attached to its licensing of “British” vessels to use electric fishing, the UK’s environment department, Defra, these included “ensuring electric trawling is only allowed in certain areas” which are the entire southern North Sea, including the three Special Areas of Conservation.

The UK government went on to claim that permission would be rescinded if a scientific assessment established that harm was being done, but given that there is no credible means of assessment, it’s impossible to see how this could happen.The government then made a statement that the scientific papers are wrong:  “Currently studies indicate that pulse stimulation does not result in an increased mortality in sole, cod, brown shrimp and rag-worm. No mortality or spinal injury had been found in plaice, sole, cod, for example. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is incorrect. Among the few studies of the impacts of pulse trawling conducted so far is one showing tha tbetween 50 and 70% of large cod that come close to a passing electrode at realistic field strengths suffer fractured vertebrae. The cracking of their spinal columns through electric shocks also creates internal haemorrhages.

Between 50 and 70% of large cod that come close to a passing electrode at realistic field strengths suffer fractured vertebrae
Between 50 and 70% of large cod that come close to a passing electrode at realistic field strengths suffer fractured vertebrae.Photograph: Wageningen UR

Another trial showed that shrimp exposed to electric shocks have a significantly higher risk of subsequent infection with a virus. A further study showed a “statistically significant lower survival” rate for ragworm. As for flatfish like sole and plaice, we simply have no idea. In 2012, a small-scale fisherman in Kent told the Sunday Times that the areas through which the pulse trawlers have passed are “a graveyard. What they don’t catch, they annihilate. Virtually everything is dead.” And the rest of the ecosystem? Who knows? Some research finds that pulse trawlers have a lower bycatch (species they do not intend to take) than beam trawlers. This may be true, and it would scarcely be difficult, given the extraordinary amount of damage wreaked by conventional methods. But a study of pulse trawlers fishing for shrimp revealed “considerably higher bycatch rates for some species, compared to traditional beam trawls with sieve nets.”

Electric fishing allows boats to catch flatfish on muddy bottoms, which is difficult with conventional beam trawling, so it is likely to spread fishing damage into some of the few areas that were not previously being repeatedly wrecked. Pulse trawlers extracting flatfish still use a thick cable (the footrope) that drags across the bottom, so the physical damage they cause remains extremely high, while the electrical damage is unknown. Pulse trawling allows shrimp fishers to operate in clear water and during daylight, when shrimp are inaccessible to conventional fishing, so this could greatly increase the catch rate. Amazingly, there are no limits on the amount of shrimp that can be taken in the North Sea. When the same technologies were deployed in the East China Sea, they led to the collapse of the fishery, with the result that electric fishing is now banned in China.

As for the effects of repeated exposure to electric shocks on the animals of the sea, the impacts these might have on their ability to breed, implications for the survival of long-lived species, the long-term damage that might be done to species that detect their prey through electroreception (such as sharks and rays) and a host of other such questions, there is simply no data at all. Studies in freshwater suggest that electric shocks can be highly damaging to both fish eggs and fish embryos, but we have no idea whether the same effect occurs in salt water. Given that there are no controls on this “experiment”, no areas from which the fishing boats are excluded, no methodology and no obvious measurement parameters, the only way in which we are likely to discover whether or not the technique is damaging is through the collapse of the marine ecosystem across the entire fished area. How else could it be determined?

What this issue highlights is the absence of meaningful protection for the wildlife of the sea. Astonishingly, fishing, like farming, is entirely exempt from the environmental impact assessments that every other industry must undertake. The impact assessment for a large marine wind farm runs to about 20,000 pages, even though windfarms appear to have almost no impact on subsea life except a positive one, by providing places on which wildlife can anchor and offering some protection from trawlers. To conduct an experimental trawl to discover what lives on the seafloor where a wind farm is planned,  an exhaustive application must be submitted for a licence specifying where and when and for how long the trawl will be conducted.

Further information

Guardian news article, We should be outraged by Europe slaughtering sea life in the name of ‘science’
While we focus our anger on Japan using ‘scientific research’ as an excuse to kill marine life, Europe is doing the same thing under our noses with electric pulse trawling, with potentially disastrous effects


IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia in November 2014 and the Outcome: the Promise of Sydney

By Magdalena A K Muir

The IUCN World Parks Congress, which takes place once a decade, was held in Sydney, Australia, in November 2014.  Over 6000 participants from more than 170 countries took part.  This Congress was a turning point for the marine community and marine protected areas (MPAs). There were 226 ocean and ocean-related sessions and numerous other marine-focused events.  Marine publications, technologies tools and approaches were launched.  Most significantly, MPAs were addressed in all the plenaries and in the more general thematic sessions, and have now been mainstreamed.

Captured from the thinking of governments, international organisations, communities, civil society leaders and indigenous peoples, the four pillars of the Promise of Sydney are the collective outcomes of the IUCN World Parks Congress.  These pillars – a core Vision for the future, a set of Innovative Approaches to solve the world’s  marine challenges, commitments to advancing change for people and MPAs, and solutions that illustrate this change is within reach.

All the measures contained in the IUCN World Parks Congress’ Promise of Sydney represent the next decade’s direction and blueprint for marine protection.

Further information:

IUCN World Parks Congress 2014


Promise of Sydney ; Vision



Promise of Sydney: Innovative Approaches for Change


Promise of Sydney:Commitments to Action


Promise of Sydney: Inspiring Protected Areas Solutions


 CCF Marine Roundtable discussion on the World Parks Congress. Thurs Feb 5th 5.20-6.30pm. There will be a brief overview of some the main marine outcomes and recommendations from the Congress including:Mark Spalding – controversial targets, and roles of MPAs in ecosystem management; Hannah Thomas – progress in protecting the High Seas, and other contributions from UNEP-WCMC; and Sue Wells – ensuring MPAs are effectively managed – assessments and incentives. ocation: The talk will be in HB101 in the William Hardy Building, Downing Site, off Downing Street, Cambridge. Please arrive by 5:20 as the doors lock automatically at 5:30. Map here  https://map.cam.ac.uk/Sir+William+Hardy+Building#52.201656,0.123116,18

Project Eyes on the Seas The smart monitoring system in project “Eyes on the Seas” tackles illegal fishing


Project Eyes on the Project Eyes on the Seas is being run from a “watchroom” at the UK Satellite Applications Catapult

Technologists have introduced a novel system they hope can help tackle illegal fishing.It meshes satellite and other data to monitor the activities of vessels, automatically triggering alarms when suspicious activity is observed. The project is a joint venture between the Pew Charitable Trusts and the UK Satellite Applications Catapult.It is thought as many as one in five fish are landed outside of national or international regulations. The value of this trade could exceed more than $20bn (£13bn; 17bn euros) a year, according to some estimates. Much of this theft is perpetrated by industrial-scale pirate operations that think the vast expanse of the oceans can hide their behaviour. The new system, known as Project Eyes on the Seas, will be operated initially from a “watchroom” at the Catapult’s Harwell, Oxfordshire, HQ. The smart monitoring system does not merely track vessels at sea; it analyses their movements. And by looking at additional inputs like sea conditions and probable fish locations, it can make predictions about what vessels are doing. Algorithms built into Project Eyes will provide alerts to the watchroom.

Fundamental to the system’s operation are the safety and management transponders that are routinely fitted to many vessels detailing their whereabouts to overflying satellites. Project Eyes is pulling in satellite radar data as well .It is hoped that by targeting these key “trans-shipment” vessels, which conduct the mid-ocean exchanges of illegal catch, that many of the smaller “dark” boats can be disrupted as well. Chile and the Pacific island republic of Palau will be among the first to use the system to help protect their fishing interests.Palau is setting up a marine reserve, and with its economic waters extending over an area the size of France, it knows it faces an immense challenge in keeping tabs on a fleet of problematic boats from Asia. The same is  true also of more developed nations, who could access the information to decide when best to send up drones or spotter planes to investigate suspicious trawling.

More information

BBC News Article: Satellite Watchroom Targets Illegal Fishing


Civil Society and Public Engagement in European Seabed Mining, Including EU Consultation and EU Midas Project

By Magdalena A K Muir
In March 2014, the European Commission launched a consultation on seabed mining.The consultation closed on 20 June 2014. Since that time, EC has reported that there were 206 replies with a selection of private bodies, public authorities, researchers and replies. Another 515 respondents, rather than replying to the questions, sent individual e-mails.  Further information and links to the responses for this consultation are provided below. The EC has not yet released any summary or analysis of these responses, though apparently efforts are underway.

The EU-sponsored MIDAS (Managing Impacts of Deep-seA reSource exploitation) project stated that it would provide parameters to support the further development of EU and international regulations for economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable resource exploration and extraction. Science-policy interaction processes would be developed, informed by existing legal and policy frameworks, improved tools for integrating deep-sea impacts and values, the best available science, as well as an understanding of technological capabilities and economic feasibility. At that time, MIDAS stated it would ensure  the integration of civil society perspectives by facilitating wider stakeholder consultations.

Upon inquiry to the MIDAS project in 2014, the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) was informed that there would be an opportunity for ENGOs and civil society to participate in two meetings planned with civil society organizations, as part of a consultative process with civil society organizations for the policy recommendations that will form part of the final project report in November 2016. In addition, there would be at least one conference during the project open to all stakeholders. It was also stated that information would also be provided ton an ongoing basis.

In response to an EUCC inquiry in January 2015, the MIDAS project stated that it is planning a NGO consultation or workshop on deep-sea mining for sometime in April or May 2015.  This workshop would likely be co-organised by Seas At Risk and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and will include a discussion of the MIDAS Project and input from participants to the project. This event is still in the planning stages,and the project does not have any further details to share at this stage. Further information on the MIDAS project is available at their website here  or at http://www.eu-midas.net/

Therefore, the MIDAS project component for the integration of civil society perspective is not yet underway despite that project being midway to completion. This suggests that any civil society engagement under the project will be limited and non very interactive. Furthre, this suggests the EC should not rely on  MIDAS project to meet the requirements of civil society and public engagement in the development of European policy for seabed mining; or as substantively developing social or public acceptance acceptance for this mining.
As the summary of civil society and public participation in the EU consultation on seabed mining (links included below) confirms:
– A broad cross section of civil society and the public are interested in the development of policy for seabed mining, and represent diverse interests and contributions.
– Further, civil society and the public are likely to participate in further discussions and the development of European policy if appropriate and timely opportunities and resources are provided.
-Finally, it is suggested that the next steps in the EU consultation on seabed mining, and the development of European policy include mechanisms, processes and support for civil society and public participation.
Further Information on EU Consultation on Seabed Mining
See following link here for more information on this EU consultation: 
Complete responses to EU stakeholder survey on seabed mining are available here:
Summary of Civil Society participants and their participation is found here.

GOF and FAO announce ABNJ Workshop Feb 17-20, 2015 at FAO in Rome, application due by January 20, 2015

GOF and FAO announce ABNJ Workshop Feb 17-20, 2015 at FAO in Rome
The Global Ocean Forum and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are pleased to announce the forthcoming “Workshop on Linking Global and Regional Levels in the Management of Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction” to be held 17-20 February 2015 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.  The workshop is organized in special cooperation with the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the project partners of the Global Environment Facility/Food and Agriculture Organization/Global Ocean Forum Project on Strengthening Global Capacity to Effectively Manage ABNJ, as part of the GEF/FAO Program on Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (“Common Oceans”) (www.commonoceans.org).
Interested individuals and organizations are invited to apply for registration to participate in the workshop, and to organize side events. 
To apply for participation in the workshop, please send a completed registration form ABNJ Workshop Registration Form (1) by 20 January 2015 to: Erica Wales (ewales@udel.edu).  
Side Events  
There will be opportunities to organize side events on Wednesday, 18 February and Thursday, 19 February (lunchtime: 12:00-1:00 PM; evening: 6:00-7:00 PM).  Please contact Erica Wales (ewales@udel.edu) to propose side events (deadline, 10 January 2015).
Workshop Purpose
This workshop will foster open and constructive policy dialogue for supporting national, regional, and global processes in place (formal and informal) for enhancing ecosystem approaches to the management of ABNJ.  The workshop will bring together representatives from all sectors with expertise, knowledge and experience in ABNJ issues, including: global, regional, and national decision-makers; representatives from the fishing, shipping, and other industries operating in ABNJ; UN delegates; intergovernmental organizations; non-governmental organizations; participants in the Common Oceans Pro¬gram (seewww.commonoceans.org); policy experts; legal scholars; and academics, to:
1. Assess knowledge, ongoing efforts at national/regional and global levels, and available capacity relevant to sustainable management of fisheries and biodiversity conservation in ABNJ, with the aim of identifying knowledge gaps and capacity needs;
2. Establish cross-sectoral linkages for improved information-sharing on ABNJ across sectors, and between global and regional levels;
3. Share and exchange lessons learned, best practices, and emerging trends in research, development, and management of ABNJ resources from various regions of the world; and
4. Provide a synthesis on the current state of knowledge on relevant global and regional policy processes that could be used to: 1) address areas of uncertainty due to a weak knowledge base on fisheries and biodiversity, and 2) improve sustainable use of fishery resources and conservation of biodiversity in the ABNJ.
Workshop Agenda
Tuesday, 17 February 2015:
Arrival and Registration
Pre-Workshop Activities
Meeting of the Community of Practice on Fisheries, Biodiversity, and Climate Change (10:00AM-12:00PM)
Meeting of the Community of Practice on Multiple-Sector Area-Based Planning (1:00PM-3:00PM)
Meeting of the ABNJ Public Outreach Network (3:00PM-5:00PM)
Wednesday, 18 February 2015:   
Session 1 (10:00AM-12:00PM) – Opening Session: Importance of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
This session provides an overview of the workshop, its scope and goals in the context of current and emerging problems, constraints, and opportunities in the management of ABNJ. High-level leaders from government and intergovernmental organizations will discuss the importance of ABNJ from national and global as well as sectoral perspectives, and their value as reflected in their institutional priorities. 
Session 2 (1:30-3:30PM) – Setting the Stage: Major Uses and Issues in ABNJ
This session provides an overview of the status of major uses/issues/threats in ABNJ, with an emphasis on fisheries management and biodiversity conservation. The status of ecosystems in ABNJ and their vulnerability to human activities will also be discussed. Discussion will also include new knowledge on major drivers of change, such as climate change, and new and emerging uses of ABNJ.
Session 3 (3:45-5:45PM) -The Imperative of Capacity Development in ABNJ
This session reviews and discusses updates on capacity assessments for science and technology to support research, conservation, communications, and sustainable use and management of ABNJ. Various options and approaches for multi-sector area-based planning in ABNJ are reviewed, including capacity for their implementation. The imperative for public awareness and stewardship of ABNJ and their management and strategies for addressing this need are also discussed.
Welcome Reception (6-8PM)
Thursday, 19 February 2015:
Recap of Sessions 1-3 (9:30-10:00AM)
Session 4 (10:00AM-12:00PM) – Experiences, Priorities, and Opportunities in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean
Session 5 (1:15-3:15PM) – Experiences, Priorities, and Opportunities in the Pacific
Session 6 (3:30-5:30PM) – Experiences, Priorities, and Opportunities in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean
Sessions 4-6 will focus on the status of major uses/issues/threats in ABNJ with emphasis on fisheries and biodiversity in the regions, including: 1) information on new and emerging uses; 2) “State of practice” of regional level implementation of ABNJ management, including new options for conservation and sustainable management and updates on ongoing processes  and discussions on ABNJ issues taking place at the regional level; and 3) lessons learned and best practices from national and regional management approaches, and potential ways to scale up these approaches to the global level. Inputs and perspectives from the Common Oceans Program will add information and lessons learned to the discussion.
Friday, 20 February 2015:
Recap of Sessions 4-6 (9:30-10:00AM)
Session 7 (10:00AM-3:00PM) – Breakout Discussions on Advancing Regional Management of ABNJ
The break-out group discussions, which will be conducted by regions (or regional groups), will identify, discuss and take stock of: 1) Current knowledge and information on fisheries management, biodiversity conservation, and other major uses and issues in ABNJ in the region/regional group; 2) Emerging best practices for management of fisheries and biodiversity conservation, from both within and beyond national jurisdiction, that could be scaled up and applied to ABNJ in each region/regional group, as well as to the global level; and 3) Important gaps in capacity, management, scientific knowledge, and other key areas of uncertainty related to ABNJ uses and issues as well as specific avenues for future research and action with a view to filling these gaps in each region/regional group. The expected outputs from these break-out groups will form part of the state-of-the-art of science and policy/management in fisheries management, biodiversity conservation, and other major uses and issues in ABNJ in each region/regional group.
Session 8 (3:30-5:00PM) – Learning Lessons, Charting Directions
This session will commence with reporting from the Chairs of the Regional Breakout Groups and summary of discussions. A synthesis of the overall outcomes from the plenary sessions and break-out discussions will follow. Next steps emanating from the workshop outcomes as well as concluding remarks will close the workshop.