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© Lisbeth Engbo

In the fight against marine litter every action counts

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries


ou are probably reading this while flying to your holiday destination. Many of you are heading to beautiful beaches and blue seas. Some of you will dive and marvel at the treasures lying on the seabed. Others will visit aquaria, maybe with their children, to learn more about ocean life. But this time around, you might be shocked by what you discover; you may even come across a tank filled with litter rather than marine species. Yes, such an unpleasant sight would deeply upset you and yet you must be aware that this is becoming a sight that is all too common. Every year millions of tons of litter end up in the oceans. By 2050, our seas could contain more plastic than fish. Even the remote, uninhabited Henderson Island, in the South Pacific, has been reached by our trash: 18 tons of plastic litter were recently discovered on its shores. Marine pollution endangers marine ecosystems and puts our own health at risk. Microplastics and other contaminants poison the fish we eat. Millions of seabirds, marine mammals and turtles die every year. The environmental, social and economic threat to our oceans

is so serious that we cannot delay taking action any more. The European Union is committed to preserving the oceans for the future generations. That is why we are hosting the fourth edition of the Our Ocean conference in my home Malta on 5 and 6 October, and seeking ambitious, game-changing commitments from policymakers, civil society and, above all, corporate leaders. We are calling on all of you to join in our efforts: you can reduce your plastic consumption, recycle and reuse, participate in beach clean-ups and contribute to raising awareness within your community. Every action counts.


Malta National Aquarium, enthusiastically responded to the call to join our awarenessraising campaign against marine litter. But our drive goes further. We have launched other actions: schools in Malta are participating in an ocean literacy project aimed at teaching the younger generation how to take care of Our Ocean; EU staff are cleaning up the beaches in many locations (Belgium, Tanzania, Mauritania, Poland, Spain, Ghana, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy) and we call on other administrations to do the same The European Commission is supporting an exhibition about plastic pollution that is travelling around Europe – from Tallinn to Lisbon, from Malta to Genoa.

Tackling marine pollution – one of the main themes of this high-level event – is an ambitious challenge and yet everybody can help, individually and collectively. To ensure public awareness and ownership, we have launched a number of initiatives that target citizens and administrations alike.

On the policy side, we are pushing for a truly circular economy – the only viable solution to marine litter as it tackles the problem at its very source – and the European Commission will soon launch a dedicated Plastics Strategy.

Aquaria are the ambassadors of the sea and are thus in a unique position to engage with thousands of people, especially children. Dozens of aquaria around the world, including – I am delighted to say – the

Together, we can make sure Our Ocean stays healthy. Together, we can make sure our children, and the generations to come, will continue to enjoy Our Ocean, our shared heritage.

Find out more at www.ourocean2017.org or contact us via email at MARE-OOC-2017_BUSINESS@ec.europa.eu #OurOcean

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