Between 75 and 91 percent of the area of European seas are contaminated by chemical pollutants, according to a new assessment by the European Environment Agency released today.
According to the data presented in the evaluation, while overall contamination is declining in the four seas monitored, contamination of dangerous pollutants remains a large-scale problem. It affects 75 percent of the area of the North-East Atlantic, 87 percent of the Mediterranean, 91 percent of the Black Sea, and 96 percent of the Baltic Sea, according to the first map of its kind published by the EEA, based on samples from 1,541 sites.
The assessment found a decline in heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury but said that levels of the insecticide DDT were ‘at best stabilising’ in the Mediterranean Sea.
Heavy metals remain the main pollutants in European seas, with significant levels of brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), all of which are highly toxic for marine fauna.
The study highlights how in recent years a common course of action has developed between Member States to tackle marine pollution, but pushes for a more radical attitude: many contaminants, for example, persist for decades in our seas, hence the need for an approach that completely prohibits their use, so as to be able to achieve EU objectives.
The EEA report compares the information to seven international policy objectives related to contamination in the marine environment, saying that all the seven objectives remain unlikely to be met by 2020-2021.
The mapping of contaminants is the first in a series due to be carried out by the EEA. It will be followed, by assessments of eutrophication, marine biodiversity, potential combined effects of multiple human pressures, sustainable use, and marine protected areas.