As it makes up 70% of the planet and absorbs 25% of the global CO2 emissions, the ocean is an important source of vital resources and plays a significant role in regulating the climate. However, human pressure on the oceans has reached unsustainable levels. Marine biodiversity has dropped by almost 40% in the last 40 years, plastic pollution has contaminated the remotest islands and the deepest trenches and climate change and acidification are exacerbating the decline in ocean health. It is an ‘oceanic’ challenge at global scale and addressing it is considered a global priority.
European regional seas are some of the most intensively used marine waters in the world. This makes it challenging to implement appropriate governance and management measures that can enable a growing blue economy whilst ensuring we do this in an environmentally sustainable way. Good ocean management requires marine knowledge, which originates from ocean observation, monitoring and wider sampling and understanding of our ocean. There has been significant progress in the coverage and range of data being collected, largely driven by advancements in technology for satellites and automated in situ ocean observation platforms. This is largely funded by national investment into sustained observation and monitoring programmes. These data are used to provide understanding and evidence to support marine and maritime industry and underpin evidence-based policy planning and decision-making.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), introduced in 2008, is the environmental pillar of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) with the aim for more integrated and coordinated assessment of the health of the marine environment. Countries respond with MSFD assessments of their national waters. In addition, the management of Europe's four regional seas (Baltic, Black, Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic) is coordinated by Regional Sea Conventions (Helsinki Convention, Barcelona Convention, Bucharest Convention and OSPAR Convention). These conventions work with contracting parties to cooperate at a regional level and develop marine strategies to protect and conserve European seas. The map of the week shows the maritime regions covered by each of these Regional Sea Conventions.
In 2016, the European Commission and the EU's High Representative set out a joint agenda for international ocean governance. This proposed 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world. The upcoming International Ocean Governance (IOG) Forum on 22-24 April will further discuss this topic and consult stakeholders to develop a new generation of the International Ocean Governance Agenda.
A healthy ocean - and thus the resilience of the marine ecosystem - is of the utmost importance in combating the climate crisis and delivering a sustainable blue economy. We hope that with oceans being better protected and sustainably managed, some of the global challenges such as climate change, poverty and food security can be effectively addressed.
The data in this map were provided by DG MARE.
 WWF Living Blue Planet Report: https://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/living_blue_planet_report_2015.pdf