Oceans… they produce more than half the world’s oxygen, hold most of the planet’s biodiversity and account for nearly half the global population’s livelihoods, providing crucial food, jobs and energy.
The marine environment is under threat, however, from overfishing, dredging, fish farming, coastal urbanisation, energy infrastructure, mining activities, invasive species, pollution and climate change.
This is the subject of a new, year-long investigation by The Ferret, that takes in not only Scottish seas but those elsewhere in Europe.
For the rest of 2024, The Ferret will be digging deep to expose myriad problems while also looking at innovative solutions to pressing issues facing our seas.
Marine protection in Europe is an ongoing debate. To slow and attempt to reverse marine degradation, governments must make difficult decisions to protect our waters. But due to powerful vested interests, and coastal communities’ concerns about marine restrictions hitting their livelihoods, striking the right balance is a tough path for Europe’s lawmakers to navigate.
It’s a debate we witnessed in Scotland recently over controversial government plans to give seas special protections to allow their marine ecosystems to grow.
The plans were shelved after some coastal communities, and fishing and island organisations, argued that highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) would decimate their livelihoods, and fuel depopulation. But there is support in coastal and island communities for marine areas to be protected and enhanced, suggesting a balance can be struck.
This is just one issue we’ll examine. We’ll also look at key marine species in decline, areas harmed by pollution, the influence of companies and special interest groups, and what role lesser-known threats to marine environments, such as sewage pollution, are playing.
The series will include news reports, longform features, insightful data visualisations, explainers and fact checks.
IRPI, which is conducting fieldwork in Sardinia, Sicily and Apulia and their minor islands, will publish its work later this year.
Our series starts on Sunday with an exclusive report, followed by another five exclusive reports next week — and over the course of 2024 we’ll produce another two tranches of special reports, providing unparalleled coverage of issues affecting the marine environment.
Scotland’s Seas in Danger is a project funded by Journalismfund Europe – an independent, non-profit organisation based in Belgium that supports cross-border investigative journalism.
The Ferret hopes you’ll support our journey into the depths over the next 12 months and we look forward to hearing your views on our reporting.
Header image: McLeodPhotographylondon/iStock