Oceans | WWF
	© WWF

Saving our ocean

Europe’s seas remain in a critical state with most fish stocks heavily overfished, too many pollutants, biodiversity loss, degraded habitats, invasive species and declining coastal communities.
Despite having good legislative tools, such as  Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Marine Spatial Planning Directive and the Integrated Maritime Policy, the EU probably won’t achieve its ambition of sustainable use of European Seas.

To deliver good environmental status these legislative tools need to meet sustainability targets, including sustainably managed fisheries and established marine spatial plans by 2020 and 2021.

Sustainable Development Goal 14: on ‘Life Below Water’ has raised ocean conservation and ocean governance issues onto the international agenda. To successfully implement the targets within the SDG 2030 agenda there, the EU needs to address the budget deficit of 3 trillion USD between the public money available and the estimated cost to ‘leave no one behind.

The Sustainable Blue economy

In 2015 the value of the ocean economy was assessed at over 24 trillion USD. The Blue Economy is growing rapidly, as investors and policy makers turn to the sea for economic opportunities, resources, and prosperity. However, unsustainable economic activity in the ocean poses a great risk to lose the natural capital and resources on which such growth depends.

Raising demands for marine resources are accompanied by weak policy implementation, lack of regulation outside of national jurisdictions, data deficiency, and a single sector approach to ocean management.

What is WWF doing?

WWF is working with Member States to ensure environmental coherence in marine spatial plans as well as with the Commission and private sector to develop a set of guidelines and ‘guardrails’ to influence investment decisions and development policy within the maritime sector along the most sustainable blue economy pathways possible.

The EU should make sure it achieves the good environmental status (GES) and sustainable management of fish stocks by 2020. To ensure this we are advocating for:
  • better implementation and monitoring of the EU IUU regulation to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
  • establishing an ecological coherent network of multiannual management plans for the European Regional Seas;
  • increasing investments to collect and assess fisheries data;
  • sustainable fishing practices that guarantee the elimination of fish discard, fleet capacity in line with fishing opportunities, and a lower impact on the marine environment;
  • increased cooperation and involvement of stakeholders in the management of fisheries to deliver tailored measures and to ensure the right level of stakeholder buy-in and compliance.
In addition, WWF is identifying priority actions to implement the sustainable development goal 14, dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of the seas, oceans and marine resources.  

Policy timeline

EU fish facts & figures

	© naturepl.com / Doc White / WWF
    2/3 of Europe’s assessed fish stocks are overexploited
    Europe’s fishing fleet is estimated to be 2 to 3 times the size needed to catch the available resources
    The EU is the 4th largest producer of fish and aquaculture products in the world
    The North Sea yields only 1/5th of the cod, plaice and sole it did 25 years ago
    In the Mediterranean, over 90% of assessed stocks are overexploited
    60% of fish consumed within the EU is caught abroad


  • Healthy marine ecosystems supporting abundant fish stocks which in turn provide sustainable livelihoods for fishing industries and fisheries dependent communities around Europe and the world.