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TAILOR-MADE ACTIONS SEA BASIN PER SEA BASIN

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.

LOOKING BACK: CHANGE IS POSSIBLE IN EUROPE

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.

POCKET GUIDE TO YOUR BEACH HOLIDAYS

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.

BEACHES, FISHING, PIPELINES: WHO GETS WHAT SPACE ON THE SEA?

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.

A NEW EU-MOROCCO FISHERIES PROTOCOL IS IN PLACE

July 17th, 2014
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a new EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is in placeThis week, Morocco has finally ratified the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement. I know how important this is for the EU’s fisheries sector: after the old protocol ran out in 2011, our fishermen have been waiting for more than two years for this day to come!

With this new generation protocol we have made sure that EU-Morocco deal includes the same principles that we apply at home. First, we respect environmental sustainability. Our scientists, not lobbyists ,tell us where the fishing limit is. Second, we promote sustainable economic profitability and support the local fishing sector in Morocco, using european tax payers money in a prudent way  .Third, we ensure international legality is respected.

I am glad that within this agreement, we have kept a balance between environmental and economic responsibility while ensuring international legality, as they all go hand in hand.

Soon, EU fishermen will be fishing again in Morocco’ waters. With  this deal in place, we are setting an example of responsible international fisheries governance.

ANCHOVY IN THE BAY OF BISCAY: SACRIFICES PAY OFF

July 9th, 2014
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Anchovy from the Bay of BiscaySometimes in life, waiting, even if it is tough, pays off. With the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, I actually see more and more often that this is true. At least that is the case for anchovy, a species that was close to collapse in 2005. After we recorded the lowest ever catch level of anchovy back then, Spanish and French fishermen were prohibited to fish it for four years so to allow the stock to recover.

In 2009, the EU sat together with fishermen, governments and the regional advisory council to set up a long term plan to manage the anchovy fishery. Every summer, the scientists tell us how healthy the stock actually is, so that the EU can propose the quota based on that plan. And this year, we could increase the allowed catches for fishermen by almost 20 %, to 20,100 tons, because the scientists confirmed that the stock is in a good shape and above safe biological limits. This is great news.

To me, this shows that we were right with the principles we established in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. First, we need to work closely all together at regional level to manage our fisheries. And second, if we want sustainable fisheries, we need to give some stocks the time to recover. Even if this means sacrifices in the short term for our fishermen, it pays off for everybody in the long run: French and Spanish fishermen can now go back to fishing more of it. This makes me optimistic that we can achieve similar results for other stocks: we just need patience for that.

 

GREECE HANDING OVER EUROPE’S STEERING WHEEL TO ITALY

July 4th, 2014
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Here we are, in the midst of the “year of the Mediterranean” as Greece handed the EU Presidency of the Council over to Italy this week.

I am glad to see the progress made under the Greek Presidency in terms of sustainability of our oceans, growth and job creation. The EU Ministers agreed on strategies fostering coastal and maritime tourism and framing policy on ocean energy and blue innovation. These are the key drivers of Europe’s blue economy. But only safe and secure oceans can attract sustainable investments.

So, to underpin Blue Growth, the Council ensured progress was made in terms of knowledge, safety and security of the oceans. It endorsed the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive and enhanced research programs through Horizon 2020. Also, EU is now leading by example in the fight against illegal fishing: with its “yellow cards” and trade measures, it ensures no illegal product ends up on the EU market. Moreover, the Council endorsed an EU Maritime Security Strategy focusing on an effective and comprehensive approach of maritime security challenges. The Italians now hold Europe’s steering wheel and will have to continue the work in carrying the EU Maritime Security Strategy forward.

On the other hand, all eyes will focus during the Italian Presidency on the yearly exercise of agreeing fish quotas as, for the first time we will implement the new Common Fisheries Policy. This exercise is going to be crucial for the Baltic, North-East Atlantic and deep-sea fisheries. I also expect the Italian Presidency to finalize discussions on deep-sea trawling and driftnets. We have tabled proposal and it is now up to the Council and EP to take these files forward.

Last but not least, I hope EU Ministers will endorse the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy that we have proposed together with Commissioner Hahn earlier this year. Challenges are not specific to one country belonging to one sea basin. Regionalisation is a united and coherent solution to tackle these common issues.

There is still a lot to do, but I am confident that the “year of the Mediterranean” is on the right track.

OCEAN HEALTH: LET´S SEIZE THIS INTERNATIONAL MOMENTUM

June 25th, 2014
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OCEAN HEALTH: LET´S SEIZE THIS INTERNATIONAL MOMENTUMI have to say: I find it great to witness so much international engagement on ocean governance recently. Just last week, President Obama announced the US commitment to fight illegal fishing and to establish a marine protected area in the Pacific. This week, I am in New York for the launch of the “Global Ocean Commission” (GOC) report on global ocean governance and we’ll continue the discussion on 30 June in Brussels. There is more talk in the media and the international community about protecting our oceans. From an EU perspective, I can only applaud these initiatives: we have been at the forefront to fight for ocean health in the last years. To get serious on global ocean governance, we need more of that.

But we also need to translate words into deeds: next year’s UN negotiations will show if we “mean business” when it comes to introducing fair international ocean governance rules, or if we are still driven by indolence and greed for years to come. I hope that we’ll make progress on how we want to exploit the high seas and the genetic material in the sea.

In the European Union we have introduced real change over the past years in our EU fisheries and maritime policy. Our Common Fisheries Policy has been deeply reformed and Blue Growth is now becoming a prominent way of developing our maritime activities. We have understood that our seas and oceans can be flooded with opportunities for growth and jobs but also that we must ensure at the same time that they remain clean, safe and healthy. But one thing is clear: it is only the beginning.

 

FIGHTING THE PLAGUE OF ILLEGAL FISHING

June 13th, 2014
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IUU "Yellow cards"With the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy we want to ensure that the EU market is providing sustainable fish. But since we import 2/3 of the fish we eat in Europe, it is our duty to apply the same sustainability principles to our imports. It is therefore our duty to combat IUU.

Illegal practices worldwide are a threat to the viability of fish stocks and are of great concern. Furthermore, recent news has shown that some third countries fisheries industries are working under unacceptable conditions. Allegations over disrespect of human rights in Thailand’s prawn industry are shocking. There is no place for forced labour in our world.

The European fisheries control measures can help identify other illegal practices. Country listing is not a novel principle: some Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and the United States can list countries to discourage illegal catches. However, in the EU we took this a step further by implementing those rules in a systematic way and imposing, when necessary, trade sanctions.

Last March, the European Commission sanctioned Guinea, Belize and Cambodia for tolerating illegal fishing. These countries are no longer allowed to trade fish with the EU.

But our ultimate goal is not imposing trade bans. It is to ensure sustainability across the globe. I hope that the yellow cards attributed to Philippines and Papua New Guinea a few days ago will enable them to act faster against illegal fishing and that we will not be forced to impose sanctions.

“GOING GLOBAL” TO SAFEGUARD OUR OCEANS

June 6th, 2014
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World Oceans DayOn 8th June we celebrate the World Oceans Day: an important reminder for all of us to protect our seas and to raise awareness on the tremendous challenges we are still facing. Oceans are full of potential but before we exploit them, we need rules to keep the balance between environment and economic sustainability.

This is why in the EU we reformed our Fisheries policy and shaped our Integrated Maritime policy in a sustainable way. At the same time, we opt for growth through the use of untapped resources. We have showed that change is possible and our recent European achievements proved right.

But this is not enough if we are alone. We need to “go global”.

The goals set at RIO+20 United Nations Conference were a positive signal that the oceans are gaining prominence for governments around the globe. We need to build on this momentum and take action. In June, I will be in Washington with Secretary of State John Kerry on 16-17 June and later on in Brussels with the members of the Global Ocean Commission on 30 June. Together we will try to build consensus on global ocean action. Furthermore, the European Commission proposed last week to put the seas and oceans on our priority list in the international negotiations on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

We all share our oceans – so we also share responsibility for our marine environment worldwide. I am convinced that we can only tackle global challenges all together.

Last update: 22/08/2014 | Top