Striving towards a clean, healthy, safe and productive sea with a rich biodiversity and with a sustainable use of the marine environment also means working on a long-term basis.
• The Law of 20th January 1999 for the protection of the marine environment in the areas of the sea under the jurisdiction of Belgium, better known as the Marine Environment Law or MMM Law, provides the legal framework to protect the Belgian part of the North Sea from marine pollution and to facilitate the conservation, restoration and development of the natural environment of the sea. A number of provisions also apply to Belgian nationals and vessels outside the Belgian part of the North Sea.
The general principles of environmental law are enumerated in this important Law:
the prevention principle: prevention is better than cure;
the precautionary principle: precautionary measures should be taken when there are reasons to be concerned about pollution;
the principle of sustainable management: the human activities must be managed in such a way that the marine ecosystem is able to continually ensure the use of the sea;
the principle "the polluter pays": the costs of the measures to prevent and combat pollution are to the account of the polluter;
the restoration principle: in case of damage or environmental disturbance, the marine environment must be restored to the original condition, to the extent possible;
the principle of objective liability: in case of any damage or environmental disturbance of the marine area as a result of an accident or violation of the law, the one who has caused the damage or environmental disturbance is obliged to restore it even though he has committed no mistake.
• The political priorities of the marine environmental policy are of course determined by the competent minister or the secretary of state. The policy document further gives shape to the major principles of the coalition agreement and outlines the main strategic lines of the policy.
• The marine environmental policy is to a large extent driven by international agreements, particularly at the level of the European Union. Working in an international context is therefore a constant in the functioning of the Marine Environment service. This means on the one hand contributing to the shaping of this international policy by being active in the international fora and on the other hand implementing the international agreements and conventions (e.g. EU legislation) at the federal level.
• A marine environmental policy implies the sustainable management of human activities at sea: what activities are possible or not possible and what are the framework conditions?
• Implementing a marine environmental policy also involves in the first place the coordination, with other federal and regional institutions in Belgium. The Marine Environmental service therefore cooperates either bilaterally or by means of consultative and advisory structures with other federal or regional administrations to implement the marine environmental policy.