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 user 2007-06-11 at 9:50:00 am Views: 55
  • #18204

    Europe’s seas face ‘bleak future’
    seas are in a “serious state of decline” as a result of coastal
    development, overfishing and pollution from agriculture, warn

    continent’s regional seas will deteriorate even further unless action
    is taken to curb the threats, they add.Economic growth and the
    expansion of the EU, the researchers suggested, had contributed to the
    state of the waters.The findings were presented in an EU-funded report,
    involving more than 100 scientists from 15 nations.The three-year
    project, European Lifestyles and Marine Ecosystems (ELME), examined the
    relationship between human activities and the impact on the region’s
    marine ecosystems.It focused on the continent’s four regional seas: the
    North-East Atlantic Ocean, and the Black, Baltic and Mediterranean
    seas.The objective was to look at the relationship between human
    lifestyles in a rapidly changing Europe and the marine environment,”
    the project co-ordinator, Laurence Mee, told BBC News.”In every sea, we
    found serious damage related to the accelerated pace of coastal
    development, transport and the way we produce our food,” said Professor
    Mee, director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth,
    UK.”We thought it was important to really understand what these changes
    in lifestyle imply for our marine space, which is critically important
    for the future.”

    ‘Joined-up’ problems
    The researchers examined the impact of four environmental issues:
        * habitat change
        * eutrophication (over-fertilisation of water)
        * chemical pollution
        * fishing

    is the joined-up nature of these problems that makes them quite
    difficult to understand and tackle,” explained Professor Mee.”Whatever
    problem you look at, it is connected to one or another problem.”The
    expansion of the 27-nation EU bloc and economic growth were helping to
    exacerbate the problems, he said.”Affluence is leading to a lot of
    additional environmental pressures, which we really have to recognise
    and tackle.”The pressures included the growth of resorts and a huge
    increase in second homes around the Mediterranean coastlines.The study
    also found an increase in the demand for meat, resulting in an
    intensification of Europe’s agriculture.This led to the use of more
    fertilisers, which were running off into many of the waterways and
    rivers that feed into the continent’s seas.

    Exporting pollution
    Professor Mee said there were places that were improving.”In the North
    Sea, for example, we see some signs of the ecosystem getting better -
    but sadly for the wrong reasons.”He said some of the pollution
    pressures had been “globalised away” by moving heavy industries to
    China or India.”This has had a positive effect on some of our
    ecosystems, but probably has had a severely negative effect there.”The
    scientists hope the report’s findings, which have been released to
    coincide with World Oceans Day, will provide policy-makers with the
    data needed to develop a comprehensive framework to limit the
    impacts.But Professor Mee warned that a “business-as-usual” approach
    was not an option.”If we don’t address these problems then we really
    are shooting ourselves in the foot for future generations.”

    Atlantic Ocean: unsustainable fishing is affecting sea bird
    populations; increased shipping has seen new ports being built and
    navigation channels dredged
    Baltic Sea: overfishing; eutrophication
    from industrial run-off but economic recovery could lead to improved
    waste water treatment
    Black Sea: pressures from modern lifestyles
    have caused ecosystem collapses; land-based sources of nutrients have
    triggered harmful algal blooms
    Mediterranean Sea: status as
    international biodiversity hotspot is being ‘increasingly compromised’
    by invasive species, coastal developments and overfishing.