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September 26th, 2014
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Skills in the Blue economyOne of the paradoxes of our time is that, while half of our young people are unemployed in the EU, the blue industry has difficulties to find people with the appropriate skills. We know for example that there is a shortage of qualified workers for the growing sector of offshore wind industry.

Considering that the EU needs to be at the forefront of Blue innovation and should not risk being overtaken by competitors, we need to concretely address this skills gap.

But how? Well, by bridging the gap between the education sector and stakeholders of the labour market.

All stakeholders, industry, researchers, training institutes and universities should closely cooperate and map the skills needed by the sector. Like this, industry and academia can design together training programmes which would help better match the competences needed with the requirements of the blue labour market.

Blue economy features a wide range of professions, from shipbuilding to tourism, aquaculture and offshore energy, all of which require diverse qualifications and skills. This is why the EU is working towards addressing the skills gap in these sectors. It is part of the Communication which I tabled earlier in June in order to contribute to stimulating Blue innovation, while fostering growth and creating jobs.


September 19th, 2014
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Fisheries controlTo achieve sustainable fishing, the revised rules of the Common Fisheries Policy need to be fully respected. But how can we ensure that they are in practice?

Well, by efficient and harmonised control systems.

In a spirit of subsidiarity, fisheries control means are agreed at EU level, but need to be concretely implemented on the ground by national authorities. Therefore, to guarantee a level playing field between fishermen, the European Commission checks how Member States implement their common obligations. It also provides Member States with support, where necessary, so that their control systems meet the European requirements. For the development of IT tools or the reinforcement of existing control systems the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund can provide substantial financing.

For instance, the Portuguese Action Plan proposed last Thursday is part of a broader scheme to collaborate with Member States. With France, Spain, Italy, Latvia and Malta we have already agreed on specific Action Plans to fill missing links or reinforce the effectiveness of their controls. So doing, we ensure that we all play by the same rules, a prerequisite to preserve the sustainability of our marine resources.


September 13th, 2014
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rUSian trade ban: compensation for our fishermenEarlier this summer, Russia has decided to impose a trade ban on various products from the European Union, from fruits and vegetables to meat and dairy products, including fisheries products.

In terms of exports, Russia represents 5 % of EU’s external fish trade. For example, in 2013, these exports corresponded to 144 million €. This ban has an obvious impact on European fishermen and aquaculture producers. Therefore we are working on solutions to support these losses.

I want to reassure  European fishermen: first of all they can immediately use money from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to help them store the products they haven’t sold to Russian market.

Also, the Common Fisheries Policy allows Member States to shift to the next year up to 10% of the quota they have not used the previous year. This could be applied in 2015 to unused quotas. Additionally, we are working on an exemption, exceptionally allowing to go beyond this 10% of quota shifting for impacted Member States. But for this Scientific advice first has to confirm that this is not putting the long-term sustainability of our stocks at risk.



September 5th, 2014
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20140905 MSPThe European Union has now a new Directive for Maritime Spatial planning. Before proposing, I have worked   together with Commissioner Potočnik to be sure that consistency between sea and coast was there. We asked Member States to map their activities at sea while taking into account land-sea interactions. Like this, one can make sure to have a sustainable and coherent management of our European coastlines and seas.

Yesterday, in a constructive meeting with Europa Nostra in Athens, the representatives of the organisation raised their concerns on a series of issues relating to the maritime environmental and cultural heritage of Greece. Amongst these was the recent draft bill published by the Greek authorities on coastal development and boundary marking, management and protection of the coastline and shores. The bill included the lifting of all restrictions on the area designated for constructions for business purposes and made it possible for businesses to pay fines to legalise unlicensed. Because of the reactions, the bill was finally withdrawn, but the issue is still pending.

This legislation has to be presented in connection with the necessary scientific work for mapping and maritime spatial planning, because these tools are essential in managing our coastlines. It is the only way to harmonise the different interacting activities, such as tourism and aquaculture for example. Without the correct delineation of the coastline, there is a risk of destroying precious resources and undermine the future potential for growth of these areas.

This potential of Greek coastlines and islands is to be seen not only as a resource for the country, but also as a unique, non-replaceable resource for the whole of Europe.


August 29th, 2014
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20140829 IUUThe  fight against illegal fishing was one of the cornerstones of my five-year mandate as EU Fisheries Commissioner. The reason is obvious: as the world’s biggest importer of fish, the EU has a special responsibility to ensure that the fish we have on our plate has been caught legally. This role also means that we can put pressure on other countries to respect internationally agreed rules.

Only four years ago, the EU’s Regulation on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing entered into force. It was a means to stop criminal fishing activities by allowing access into the EU market only for fisheries products, which are certified as legal, by the flag State of origin. In this vein, we are cooperating with those countries where such activities are most widespread, generating the heaviest toll on local communities and their fish resources. Since 2012, the EU has alerted 11 countries, that they need to do more to fight illegal fishing activities in their waters, and has banned fish imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia because they did not cooperate. Read the full entry


August 22nd, 2014
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Read the full entry


August 15th, 2014
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Sea basin regional approachSeven seas are surrounding the globe and each of them embraces different challenges and opportunities. In the EU we agreed that there could not be a one-size-fits-all strategy to tackle our maritime potential but that tailor-made actions should be set up sea basin per sea basin.

For example, the Baltic Member States have taken the initiative to work hand in hand with the stakeholders and the Advisory Councils of the region to effectively implement the new fisheries policy and coordinate their actions on maritime policy. They are at the forefront of regionalisation and now also share the same Blue Growth agenda.

In the Mediterranean, Member States and non-EU coastal countries face their own challenges: overfishing (90% of the stocks), difficulties to control the large number of very small vessels, intense transport and tourism but also blue growth potential. It is therefore important to enhance cooperation between EU Member States but also with neighbour countries to meet these challenges. To facilitate the whole procedure, the EU has launched its first ever macro-regional strategy in the Adriatic-Ionian; a united and coherent way for all actors and all sectors to protect marine resources and boost jobs and growth.

Another illustration is the EU Atlantic Action plan: coastal Member States work together to explore but also share information and costs about the common challenges and opportunities of this shared ocean, while preserving the environmental and ecological stability of the ocean.

Looking back at this mandate, I am happy to see the successes and initiatives of our regional approach. They are the key to sustainable management of our seas.


August 8th, 2014
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Cfp reformWhat I really take away from my five-year mandate at the European Commission is that change is possible in Europe today. It needs time and patience, but my own experience with Europe is a success story of self-criticism and self-renewal.

Change needed to happen in the Common Fisheries Policy. We had been overfishing for too long. Fishing quotas have been set following economic interests for too long. We spent millions to build new, bigger fishing vessels for too long.

With the reform, we are seeing a change in culture. Today, we don’t discuss any more if we should go for sustainably fished stocks, but when to go for it. There is a general consensus that we have to fish less if we want to continue fishing. And this will, in the long run, benefit everybody: it will increase both the fish stocks and the income of our fishermen. If we achieve our goal to have all stocks fished sustainably by 2020, we are talking about 15 million more tons of fish in the sea, which could mean €1.8 billion more revenues in the catching sector alone.  Better labelling and fresh, higher quality products will add to that.

These radical changes were only possible because we got everyone around the table: governments, parliaments, civil society, industry local and regional actors. And also because we gave powers back to those who know their craft best, the stakeholders and regional actors of fisheries policy. The ones who are on the ground. I hope these will be the founding stones of a prosperous fisheries sector. And to make it work, we need to support our fishermen.


August 1st, 2014
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How to eat sustainable fish and seafood on holidays

So, what are your holiday plans? Beach holiday by the sea? If you are, like me, looking forward to enjoying tasty seafood, make sure that you are eating only sustainably fished seafood. How?

Well, first, look for the origin of the fish and seafood you plan to eat or buy. Did you know that currently 96% or more of the Mediterranean fish stocks are overfished? We all have a responsibility to preserve the most endangered species. So, if you are spending some holidays in the region, try for instance to avoid eating Bluefin Tuna as the fishing season is already over for this year.

Secondly, try not to eat young fish or seafood, like baby squids, as they have not yet reproduced. Fishing these young fish puts the regeneration of the stocks at risk. Also, always check the label and never hesitate to ask the chef of the restaurant or fish monger where the fish has been fished.

Finally, you could also verify if the fishing technique is not harming other species or the ecosystem. For example, avoid products coming from driftnet fishing and bottom-trawling as they are non-selective fisheries. They catch a large number of unwanted or protected species. Bottom-trawling even seriously damages the bottom of the seabed and its ecosystem.

Our seas and oceans are our heritage. So let’s increase our attention during our holidays and act responsibly to protect our marine resources.


July 23rd, 2014
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Maritime spatial plan in the Bothnian Sea between Finland and Sweden (project co-financed by the European Commission)

Maritime spatial plan in the Bothnian Sea between Finland and Sweden (project co-financed by the European Commission)

Imagine an unmapped land, where windmills would be set in the middle of the regional road and where sunflowers would be planted in the middle of a forest without direct sunlight. You will agree that this is not really optimal. This is why we plan our economic activities on land. So, why should it be different at sea?

At sea, many activities also compete for the same space and resources: fishing grounds and aquaculture farms often coexist with cables, pipelines, shipping routes and wind installations. That’s why the European Commission decided last year that we need better planning of these activities, and that EU Member States should talk to each other before they plan activities at sea.

Why is this important?

Well, first, because this will give businesses more certainty: before investing in new jobs they want to be sure that they won’t settle their new eco-tourism area next to a shipping route. Also, better coordination is likely to reduce red tape, as for instance decisions will be taken more quickly. And, most importantly, better planning will allow us to protect the environment.

This is the philosophy behind our Blue Growth initiative: let’s use our oceans as economic engines, but let’s also manage the growing demand for sea space in a sustainable way. I am glad that EU Member States have endorsed this week this idea and will start working on Maritime Spatial Planning in the coming years.

Last update: 02/10/2014 | Top