By Martin Banks - 16th April 2012
The opportunity is unparalleled
Environmental NGOs are calling on EU countries to set a 50 per cent reduction target ahead of the July deadline this year when EU states are required to finalise marine environmental targets for 2020.
The proposal is detailed in an NGO advice document as part of national public consultations taking place across Europe in relation to the EU's marine strategy framework directive (MSFD).
The call comes ahead of a meeting of north east Atlantic countries in The Hague later this week.
Chris Carroll of the group, 'Seas At Risk', said, "Garbage patches forming across the world's oceans and litter strewn beaches found across Europe demand an ambitious response and a 50 per cent cut within European waters is the bare minimum we should be aiming for.
"Individuals, industry and governments can use such a target as an incentive for implementing the sorts of measures that are so badly needed to address this problem and July this year will be the litmus test for political ambition."
The 50 per cent target has been proposed by members of Seas at Risk, including the UK Marine Conservation Society, the Surfrider Foundation Europe, the North Sea Foundation in the Netherlands and Friends of the Earth Germany.
The MSFD is the only existing European legal 'instrument' that requires countries to reduce marine litter.
Carroll added, "The opportunity is unparalleled and makes a reduction target of 50 per cent across the marine environment by 2020 distinctly possible with the concerted action that should result from having multiple countries act in unison on a problem that knows no boundaries.
"With multiple opportunities to better enforce current regulations, to amend existing national and European legislation and the possibility of developing a European action plan so as to better account for marine litter, it is highly likely that a significant reduction of 50 per cent can be achieved by 2020, if not a greater reduction."
All EU countries are legally committed to achieving the aims of the directive.
Meanwhile, the Rennes-based Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR) has called on the commission to devise new rules on maritime safety.
Possible measures include authorisation to sail only in certain areas, monitoring of maritime traffic, training of ship commanders and crew members and vessel stability in case of accident and evacuation procedures.
The call comes three months after the Costa Concordia disaster off the Italian coast and was made at a recent CPMR seminar, 'How to reconcile maritime safety and the development of passenger transport.'
CPMR president Jean-Yves Le Drian said maritime regions "expect an ambitious new agenda for the European maritime sector".
He said, "Maritime areas must always be considered as potential victims and stressed that it would be rather strange if in the case of maritime accidents, jurisdiction were to be granted to the flag country of the vessel rather than to the country where the accident occurred."