Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Aquaculture on the move in 2013

2013 is set to be a crucial year for European aquaculture with the EU aiming on boosting growth in the sector and existing proposals in the ongoing reform of the CFP also set to further harness efforts. With concerns surrounding the impacts of the industry however, SAR will be working to ensure that sound policies are in place to protect the marine environment.

As things stand, developments within the management of the aquaculture sector are taking place at break neck speed at the European level with the Commission, the Parliament and Member States all getting in on the act.

Plans, guidance and councils
Currently, Member States are working on their multiannual strategic plans, which they have to submit by the end of 2013 to the European Comission in order to apply for funding under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. In order to support Member States in this task the Commission is also working on Strategic Guidelines which are due to be issued any time now.

The European Commission also published a guidance document last year on aquaculture and Natura 2000, including best practices to illustrate how nature protection provisions can be compatible with sustainable aquaculture development. Recently, the Commission also announced its intention to develop similar guidance on aquaculture under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. 

In parallel to these processes, work has also started on the establishment of the future European Aquaculture Advisory Council - one of the proposals on the table for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy - as already agreed upon by the European Parliament. This stakeholder forum will bring together representatives of the industry as well as of consumer organisations, NGOs and other interest groups.

Concerns from NGOs
While the Commission profiles aquaculture as a sustainable solution to meet future seafood demands, NGOs are concerned about the consequences in terms of pollution and habitat destruction, escaping fish and their impacts on ecosystems, diseases, parasites, the use of chemicals and impacts on wild fisheries for the production of fish meal and fish oil. There are as yet many gaps in knowledge and data on the various impacts, which warrant a precautionary approach to future developments. 

Seas At Risk will be coordinating the NGO input into the processes mentioned, in order to ensure that the sector develops in an environmentally sustainable manner and that environmental stakeholders are well-represented in the new Advisory Council.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Reception facilities for ship waste must improve

During an IMO meeting on the marine environment this year, shipping lobby groups submitted a proposal that would delay new regulations banning the dumping of cargo residues at sea; a request based on a presumed lack of adequate facilities to handle such materials. Fortunately for the marine environment, the request was rejected but nevertheless, the need to improve port reception facilities is very real if we are to truly combat ship waste dumping and marine environmental problems such as marine litter.
And oil drum found on a UK beach

On the 1st January 2013, changes made to Annex V of MARPOL– the international convention relating to pollution from ships – will come into force and require a ship to discharge its waste at a port waste reception facility rather than dumping it at sea, as has been the allowance for several waste streams under the existing Annex V.

Loop holes will still exist, but largely speaking the changes are a positive move to deter ship waste dumping.

Under Annex V of MARPOL, waste streams include items such as packaging materials, crockery, wood, glass and cargo residues, to name just a few.

Press clippings of recent legal cases 

In their proposal at the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organisation, the industry groups argued that because of a presumed lack of adequate reception facilities to handle cargo residues in some ports across the globe, there should be a deferral of the coming into force of new regulations so as to allow for adequate facilities to be put in place and for ships in the meantime to dump cargo residues at sea where those facilities do not exist.

Although some sympathy can be ascribed to the shipping industry in this instance, in reality ship’s have two choices to make rather than dump their waste at sea: 1) if possible they store the cargo residues on board until they visit a port with adequate facilities 2) they only use ports to unload their cargoes where adequate waste reception facilities are in place.

The decision of the IMO not to defer the coming into force of the new Annex V regulations has a very powerful effect because without the obligation on a ship to discharge their waste at a port, there is the potential that some ports will never provide the adequate facilities because of the lack of demand for their use. 

It is now the case that the IMO should conduct a thorough and independent review of port reception facilities across the globe for the purpose of establishing which ports should take remedial measures and to highlight, for the benefit of shippers, the ports who provide adequate facilities.

In addition, the IMO should also ensure that the GISIS system for the reporting of inadequate facilities should become a mandatory requirement for ships because in its present voluntary format, it is likely that the true scale of inadequate facilities is not being represented.

However, the provision of adequate reception facilities in conjunction with stronger international regulations on ship waste is not the end game situation. Ports also have to ensure that ship’s are not deterred from using the facilities. Here, problems associated with the cost of discharging waste and logistical constraints can pose barriers to their use. Again, good policy can be instrumental, and now we have an opportunity for administrations across the globe to assess their own port operations, and take the appropriate measures to ensure that our seas become No Place For Waste.

For more information on marine litter: Click here

By Chris Carroll

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

TFCs putting fishing communities on the brink

An article published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera earlier this year has highlighted how the system of Transferable Fishing Concessions has decimated fishing communities on the Danish island of Bornholm – a shocking state of affairs which may also be replicated across Europe.

Fishing has always been the key activity in the Baltic island of Bornholm, providing a livelihood for small scale fishermen across generations. However, Danish fishermen are facing increasing difficulties – from scarce fish resources to low market prices and high operating costs.

In order to address profitability issues, the Danish government has introduced a system of Transferable Fishing Concessions (TFCs), aimed at promoting economic efficiency in the fishing fleet. Each vessel is assigned a fixed proportion of the annual Danish quota, and this right to fish can be transferred or leased among vessels.

Theoretically, this system provides a natural asset to each operator in the fleet, which should induce stewardship for the resource – collapsed fish stocks will make these concessions worthless, whereas healthy populations of fish would make the concession increase in monetary value.

However, assigning a monetary value to a natural resource and allowing users to trade it effectively resulted in a TFC market – where those with the most money can buy out the smaller vessels. As a consequence, fishing quotas are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few industrial vessel owners – while their crew are left with nothing.

Another perverse effect of the TFC system is that the larger vessels, which are usually more destructive, buy out the smaller, generally more environment-friendly vessels.

The decline of coastal fishing has had profound effects in Bornholm’s society and economy. Its once vibrant processing industry, which at one point in time employed almost 2000 people, has all but disappeared. Young people can no longer aspire to become fishermen as the cost of acquiring a vessel and a TFC is estimated at around EUR 1 million.

However, this cautionary tale might not be the last we hear of TFCs and their effect on the fishing sector. The Corriere della Sera points out that such a scenario could be replicated across the rest of Europe due to the European Commission’s proposal to impose the TFC system on all EU Member States through the current reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The Commission’s proposal has proved to be extremely controversial and has stirred heated debates in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

Seas At Risk is advocating a reform of the CFP which gives Member States the flexibility to choose among a range of fleet management and access management tools. Key among these should be the use of social and environmental access criteria to reward responsible fishing with priority access to fish resources.

By Vera Coelho


Corriere della Sera article (in Italian):

Corriere della Sera article (in English):

European Commission’s CFP reform proposals:

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cutting back on short life carrier bags

Seas At Risk are calling for a Europe wide ban on short life, disposable carrier bags. With 70% of respondents to a European public consultation agreeing that a Europe wide ban on plastic bags is necessary, the pressure is now on the EU to implement a ban that is reasonable, and reduces unnecessary waste.

Firstly, it is important to recognise that a ban on disposable carrier bags is hardly new nor uncommon. In 2009, the UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner stated that single use plastic bags “should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere: there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere”.

Bans on short-life carrier bags is also a growing phenomenon across the globe, notably pursued in both developed and developing nations, and of course Europe already has its own Member State with a ban in place in the form of Italy, who implemented one just last year.

Not all plastics are bad, but some are worse than others

Our call for action on carrier bags primarily concerns short-life disposable bags which are distributed within the retail sector. Our broader interest here is in a shift away from the use of disposable products and a move towards long life, sustainably sourced materials. This is the sort of change in habit that is crucial in order to tackle marine litter and particularly plastic pollution.

The notorious short life carrier bags really are the ultimate low hanging fruit. They are relatively unnecessary products, the alternative use of a long life bag is hardly a major drain on the individual and quantities produced are staggering; according to the EU, the average European citizen uses around 500 plastic carrier bags annually, most of which are used only once.

And this does not even take into consideration the impact on the marine environment. According to data from trawl surveys in the UK and the North Sea, plastic bags make up almost 40% of all marine litter in these locations and in the Bay Biscay most of the waste items found on the seabed were plastic and of those 94% were plastic bags. The impacts of course can be shocking as marine life becomes entangled or dies through ingestion or suffocation and other looming concerns relate to the possible transfer of chemicals from plastics to internal tissues of marine life, and potentially to humans along the food chain.

In addition, it is also important here to expel the perverse argument that measures should not be implemented to deter disposable plastic bag use; on the basis that bags made from other materials would have to be used disproportionately more times in order to match the global warming potential of a disposable bag. This argument is perverse because of course a long life bag should be used multiple times: that’s the point!

Banning what exactly

As regards an EU wide ban, our first demand is that all short-life carrier bags, made from plastic or bio based products, should be banned from distribution in the retail sector. Such a ban could be implemented by considering certain criteria such as the thickness and resistance of the bag.

Our second demand is that long-life carrier bags are only allowed for distribution at a cost. Here, criteria for their design would also be needed to ensure against bags being sold as long-life that in reality end up only lasting for a short period time. In addition, we also propose the allowance to set a levy on such bags to ensure against over-consumption if the price signal fails.

The objective of this approach is of course to encourage the use of bagging that lasts, for years; an objective that is implicit within the EU strategy to “to assist consumers to consume differently in order to reduce the resource use and associated environmental impacts.” Short life carrier bags are only one part of the problem, but there must be EU action here to show there is substance behind these words, to respect the overwhelming opinion of EU citizens and of course to help protect the marine environment against plastic pollution.

This blog is an extended and amended version of a letter that first appeared in the European Voice.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

From a Clean Concept to Cleaned Up Seas

Just under ten years ago, North Sea Ministers acknowledged that a new approach would be needed to minimise the impact of commercial shipping on the environment. The ‘Clean Ship Concept’ was born and whilst the idea has gained momentum amongst global policy makers and shipping companies alike, the maritime sector still has much to do in order to realise its green potential.

It’s important to acknowledge here why the shipping industry must change. For good reason it is seen as a sector that reacts to environmental incidents rather than acting in advance to stop them, and when it does act, the industry is judged to move so slowly that to the outside world it gives the impression of a sector with little interest in its environmental responsibilities.

This might seem unfair when viewing the numerous environmental initiatives being pursued by the better ship operators and ports, but the list of concerns remains long: non-indigenous species are still being transported by ships with devastating consequences for marine biodiversity; global ship SOx and NOx emissions are still staggeringly high and impacting on life expectancy the world over; negligent operators are still dumping their ship waste at sea, ships are still ending their lives being dismantled on beaches by children, and the industry has very visibly failed to grasp the challenge posed by climate change and put in place measures that will reverse the huge projected rise in ship GHG emissions.

These and many other examples testify to the fact that the Clean Ship Concept is a long way from being properly implemented, and regulators recognise this: according to the OSPAR Commission the approach “still needs to be implemented in maritime and environmental policies” and further efforts are needed “to mitigate adverse effects of shipping”.

What is the Clean Ship Concept?

A Clean Ship is designed, constructed, operated and recycled in a manner that eliminates harmful discharges and emissions, and one that is energy and resource efficient in its daily operation.

A Clean Ship operation maximises the opportunities for safe and environmental navigation while at the same time provides all possible safeguards in the event of an accident. It requires a shipping sector that puts environmental protection first and where a "safety culture" is at its heart.

While the Clean Ship concept reaches into every corner of shipping practice, two areas - GHG emissions from ships and ship-source marine litter - are of particular interest to Seas At Risk.

Clean Ships and Climate Change

Perhaps the most pressing challenge facing the shipping sector is its contribution to tackling climate change. The industry currently emits circa 3% of global GHG emissions and this is projected to rise to 6% by 2020.

First tasked by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the shipping sector only in July of this year agreed on a legally binding measure to reduce its GHG emissions in the form of the IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI). The adoption of this tool should result in slowing the growth of emissions . However, such an outcome will only result in the longer term and it is deep, short term cuts in emissions that are also urgently required if emissions are to peak soon and if warming is to be kept to below dangerous levels. For such a scenario, there is sadly nothing on the table from the shipping sector to deliver anything like this.

If there really were few options then one might have sympathy for shipping, but studies by the IMO have shown that the industry has many technical and operational options for reducing emissions, that deep cuts (up to 75%) are possible with known technology and practices, and that cuts of circa 20% are possible at zero cost.
Apart from the EEDI the response of the IMO has been endless wrangling over matters of principle, and a protracted debate about emissions trading, another approach that will only deliver in the longer-term and likely only result in reductions in other sectors. This is hardly a good advert for the shipping industry.

An area of particular interest to SAR is speed reduction, where deep cuts in emissions are possible in the short term. A study of our own from 2009 showed that a cut in emissions of up to 30% was possible by slowing the fleet down just to the extent that it brought currently redundant capacity back into use. More work is being undertaken by Seas At Risk on the advantages of mandatory slow steaming and how it might be implemented. While the industry has used slow steaming to deal with high fuel prices and fleet overcapacity, it has so far at least refused to support an approach that would mandate slow steaming for the whole fleet and secure those very substantial speed related GHG emission gains in the longer term.

Clean ship options for tackling GHG emissions exist but are not being adopted.

No Place for Waste
Marine litter is fast becoming a major environmental, social and industrial problem, and ships are an important source. The Clean Ship approach would entail minimised onboard waste production, a total ban on dumping garbage into the sea and delivery of non-incinerated waste to port reception facilities. Here, the approach can play a big part tackling this growing problem.

And the enormity of the task is truly engulfing. New ocean garbage patches are being discovered across the globe; beaches in the North East Atlantic have on average 712 pieces of litter per 100m; marine litter costs the Scottish fishing fleet as much as €13 million each year; concerns about plastics entering the food chain are ever growing; and estimates suggest that 6.5 million tonnes of plastics are dumped each year by the shipping and fishing sectors.

Incentives intended to discourage dumping of waste at sea are simply not working and the more unscrupulous operator can make big cost savings by dumping their waste over the side, rather than paying at a port reception facility.

Across the majority of European ports it is the financial disincentive that is a key problem and the use of a direct fee that discourages the discharging of waste in port and rather encourages dumping at sea. In order to truly combat this problem, European ports must have a more harmonised approach, in part following Baltic ports, and administering a No-Special-Fee across the region.

With a more harmonised approach, technologies such as compacting devises will take a precedent over incinerators and the likelihood of serious markets in ship waste recycling will become more of a reality rather than a pipe dream. This can only be a positive for ports.

Cleaner ships in the future

For both the issues of climate change and marine waste, ships can and must move much closer to the Clean Ship ideal.

An important premise of the Clean Ship Concept is that growth in global shipping has to be uncoupled from the environmental harm it causes. Despite taking a knock from the recent recession the shipping industry is still projected to grow dramatically in the years ahead and this makes operationalising the Clean Ship Concept an urgent task. Regulators must move faster to green the sector, shippers must intervene to ensure their goods are shipped in the most environmentally sound manner, and ports must encourage and incentivise Clean Ship practices. With this kind of holistic approach, the concept can become reality.

By Chris Carroll. The article has been amended but first appeared in Green Port Magazine earlier this year.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Stepping off the plank

On the 15th July 2011, the world’s first globally binding climate change initiative for an international industry sector was adopted by the UN’s International Maritime Organisation. It was a fraught and complex agreement that although welcomed by Seas At Risk, is seen only as the first step towards tackling GHG emissions from the shipping sector. Below is the statement of the Clean Shipping Coalition, of which Seas At Risk is a founding member, made shortly after the measure was adopted:

“The [Energy Efficiency Design Index] EEDI is about setting energy efficiency standards for a leading global industry which will reduce long-term costs and environmental impacts. When setting fuel efficiency standards in other transport modes, industry has invariably resisted vehemently. To its great credit, the shipping industry is largely on-board with the EEDI.

Ironically, the difficulty here has not been with industry, nor has any lack of technology been a problem, nor has it been about differences in levels of development between developed and developing countries - ships built in developing countries are some of the most advanced and innovative. Rather the difficulty has been about the political positions of some in other UN forums, and the misconception of others that consensus on its own is a worthy objective. These concerns, regrettably, have seriously undermined the effectiveness of the world’s first globally binding climate change initiative.

During the almost 7 year phase-in period of EEDI, shipping GHG emissions, by the Organisation’s own estimates, will have almost doubled to 6% of global emissions. Environmental NGOs supported this process from the beginning in the belief that the potential for improvements in ship efficiency is significant particularly as many measures can be taken at zero or low cost to industry. Those possibilities risk being set aside with this decision.

If there is a rush to have all new ships take advantage of the waiver by flagging them with obliging registries, this will have enormous implications for the administration of all sorts of IMO rules and conventions, endangering both the environment and seafarer safety.

The CSC therefore calls on all enlightened ship-owners to put the question of delay aside and implement immediately the EEDI as good business sense and sound environmental practice. We call on the European Union to embrace the EEDI as an effective instrument to complement other measures it is now considering. We call on shippers, the logistics industry and harbours to use the EEDI when taking decisions on chartering and when setting port dues.

Mr Chairman, as difficult as today’s decision seems to have been, it is only the IMO's first step to address shipping’s climate change impact. A package of additional market-based and operational measures such as emissions trading, a levy, speed limits and mandatory cuts is urgently needed to properly address the rapidly growing emissions from shipping. This work on existing ships is almost in its 15th year and needs to be accelerated urgently.“ The Clean Shipping Coalition.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Biodiversity can’t be lost at sea

The EU committed itself to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Clearly that target has not been met, and marine biodiversity continues to steadily decline. The main reasons for this failure were threefold: lack of political will to prioritise biodiversity protection, lack of intermediate milestones to assess progress towards the 2010 target, and lack of integration of biodiversity considerations into sectoral policies.

The Council has recently endorsed a new and ambitious target to halt biodiversity loss and restore, where possible, lost or damaged ecosystems by 2020. Meeting this new deadline will be no simple task, and it will demand that the EU seriously addresses the shortcomings which caused the 2010 failure.

A key tool for meeting this deadline will be the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), whose aim is to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in EU marine waters by 2020. The Directive not only mentions that biodiversity must be maintained, it also specifically identifies certain sectoral problems which must be addressed in order to achieve GES. Key among these are overfishing and the accumulation of waste at sea. These problems can only be solved if European policy makers are, firstly, honest enough to acknowledge their magnitude and, secondly, ambitious enough to impose bold measures.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has resulted in 88% of assessed European fish stocks being overfished, and 30% being outside safe biological limits. The CFP has failed not only in environmental terms, but also in social and economic terms. The European Parliament and the Council must take the opportunity posed by the CFP reform to reverse this. Healthy seas are a prerequisite for abundant fish stocks and thriving fishing communities – therefore, the environment must be at the heart of the reformed CFP. This entails providing preferential access to fish resources to appropriately-scaled community-based fisheries, using ecologically responsible fishing practices. Bold decisions are needed - nothing short of a radical overhaul of the CFP will do.

Marine litter is a different, yet also manageable problem. Its impact is obvious; from the harm it can cause through entanglement through to the absorption of micro plastics into foods chains by smaller organisms, its effect is shocking. Seas At Risk’s work is particularly concerned with litter sourced from ships. In this, the EU must impose a number of measures, such as having a fee structure in place across European ports that incentivises ships not to dump waste at sea and enforces adequate port reception facilities for ship waste.

Nevertheless, all our efforts to halt the loss of marine biodiversity will be hindered by the effects of climate change. Changes in the physical properties of oceans and seas are already impacting marine life. Ocean acidification is threatening the survival of several organisms, and the knock-on effects on food webs mean that it is only a matter of time before larger marine organisms are threatened. In light of the stumbling climate negotiations, the EU must increase its own efforts to bring about strong GHG cuts across Europe and use this to further incentivise cuts in other countries.

The Parliament, the Council, and the Commission have their work cut out when it comes to protecting marine biodiversity. I just hope that this UN International Year of Biodiversity has made all three institutions fully aware of the problem, and that all three act in unison to protect not only our seas, but our futures too.

By Monica Verbeek

The article is an edited version of a piece that first appeared in the Parliament Magazine earlier this year.