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European Maritime Day (5.5.2015)

On May, 5, the Luxembourg Maritime Cluster invited to a conference at Utopolis on the subject ‘Fighting the ocean plastic pollution’, followed by the premiere of the movie ‘The 7th continent expedition’, in presence of the Luxembourg Minister for the Environment, Carole Dieschbourg (the only European Environment Minister coming from an ecological party!)

The participants of the panel were Dr. Pierre Gallego, the chairman of Odyssea, a Luxembourg association dedicated to marine biology, and of the Luxembourg marine biologists’ association, Dr. Mark Peter Simmonds, Senior Marine Scientist with the Humane Society International and Emily Penn, who is the Director of Pangea Exploration.

The situation in the ocean, mostly hidden to our eyes, is dramatic: it is currently estimated that 268 940 tonnes of plastic float in the ocean. 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into the ocean annually. These are mostly plastic bags, the remains of greenhouse coverings, fisher nets, plastic bottles and other household items.

With the time, plastic floating in the ocean becomes microdebris, even more likely to be ingested by the animals. Around the world, nearly half of all seabird species are likely to ingest debris. It is even predicted that 95% of all species are concerned by 2050.

The autopsy of two dead whales has revealed the presence of 134 (!) different types of nets in them!

In addition to ingestion, entanglement with the remains of fisher nets poses a serious threat to many species and means a certain, and slow death to the animals.

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While there are discussions to change the material of fisher nets, and rescue teams are being trained to help the animals that are entangled in plastic, there is something we all should do to bring change: reduce our consumption of plastic. There are 60 000 plastic bags used every 3 seconds in the world. The average time the bag is being used is 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, it is already waste. As many other single-use plastic items, like bottles. This seems a clear mismatch between product design and use, doesn’t it? By the way, Luxembourg managed to reduce its consumption of plastic bags by 90 % during the last decade by making single-use plastic bags paying in the supermarkets.

What’s more, the existence of the many different types of plastic (ever been to the Recycling center and stood helpless in front of the many many containers for plastic…?) means that recycling is far too expensive and complex to become standard.

Now – where does Luxembourg stand? Even if we are one of the five European landlocked countries, we are an active member in the International Whaling commission and signed the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Luxembourg indeed has a maritime pavilion with over 250 Luxembourg-flagged ships and hundreds of shipping companies established in Luxembourg. Did you know that about 1000 jobs in Luxembourg are directly or indirectly linked to the maritime sector? Robert Biwer, the Government Commissioner for maritime affairs, insisted several times that land-based activities are a far greater threat to the sea’s ecology than maritime activities. He’s afraid of a competitive disadvantage for Luxembourg and of  the distortion of the level playing field for European operators should restrictions be put into place on a European level only. He informed about plans to adapt fiscal charges depending on the emissions of the ships. At the end of the day, it all comes down to fiscality, again.

The event was sponsored by Deloitte, as well as by the Ministry for sustainable Development and Infrastructure, CLdN Cobelfret and CFL Multimodal.

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