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Conservation issues

The sea covers over two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, forming the largest habitat on the planet. It plays a crucial role in regulating the climate, providing energy and feeding millions of people and we are only just beginning to discover the potential of marine organisms for medicine, renewable energy and other vital services.

But life beneath the blue is not looking good. The oceans, seas and coasts are under severe strain. Up to 70% of people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and more than 90% of our trade is carried by shipping – yet only 1% of the world’s seas are protected.

  • Over 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of ocean.
  • Bycatch (fish caught accidentally or unintentionally) amounts to approximately 25% of the total catch.
  • 761 marine species are on the verge of global extinction.

The Celtic Sea* is an important habitat for rare birds, sharks, seals, dolphins and whales as well as commercially important fish stocks.

People from across Europe heavily use this region as it is vital for their livelihoods and well-being. Key influences include:fisheries, mariculture, chemical pollution, shipping, aggregate extraction, construction, dredging, coastal development, and recreation & tourism. Individually these activities might be sustained by the ecosystem but collectively, they pose a threat to marine biodiversity and our future economy.

We are continuing to lose biodiversity at an alarming rate and many areas of cold-water corals in the North East Atlantic are now damaged. Historically very little protection has been afforded to the marine environment and we need urgent agreement on how best to collaboratively manage our waters. That’s where a project like PISCES comes in.

Human impact on the sea

This map shows the extent to which we are having an impact. The red areas indicate very high human impact regions, while green indicates low impact.


Credit: B.S. Halpern et al. 2008. A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319: 948-952.

* includes Western Channel

Seagulls