Environment and transport ministers gathered at the sixth and last North Sea Conference failed to take any decisive action to protect marine life from the impacts of offshore development, shipping and over-fishing, said the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The group called for protected areas and “refuges” that it says are necessary to stop the extinction of species like cod and skate from the North Sea and wider repercussions on the marine eco-system.

“This was the last chance to come up with a plan for saving many species from extinction, as it was the last time ministers from all the EU states around the North Sea came together. There is no chance of us moving towards creating refuges and marine protected areas now,” the RSPB’s Marine & Coastal Policy Officer Kara Brydson, who attended the conference, told edie.

“We should be thinking of the North Sea as being not just a fishing market but an ecosystem. The North Sea is one of the busiest seas in the world, with fisheries, oil and gas pipelines, offshore wind, shipping and pleasure boats all posing a risk to marine life,” she said.

The eight EU states around the North Sea held the first North Sea Conference in 1984, with the hope of creating political impetus to protect their marine environment.

But the upshot of the sixth conference held in Gothenburg, Sweden, was a declaration on the impacts of shipping and fishing on ecosystems that the RSPB and other conservation organizations dismissed as completely ineffective in protecting marine life.

The RSPB’s Dr Euan Dunn said: “Far from making progress to halt the decline of biodiversity loss by 2010 as promised by EU Heads of State at the Summit five years ago in this very city, this declaration is rudderless and as devoid of concrete action as the Marie Celeste was of crew.”

The RSPB also believes that UK environment minister Ben Bradshaw’s failure to attend the meeting weakened Britain’s negotiating position.

“No amount of domestic politics in the UK can disguise the negative signal the UK Minister’s absence sent to this important meeting,” said Dr Dunn.

For more details about the North Sea Conference see here.

Goska Romanowicz

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