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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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


May 28th, 2014
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EU elections 2014
The dilemma we’re facing in Europe today is not about Europe becoming ‘too big’: as UK Prime Minister David Cameron himself has recognised recently, we have seen in the fisheries policy that Europe can be small about small things, when the decisions really concern people directly.  The real challenge is how to create a better Europe, that is closer to its citizens. Read the full entry


May 23rd, 2014
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Bluefin Tuna is an emblematic species, fished and appreciated all across the globe. But when I took office four years ago, the state of the stocks was extremely alarming. We were exporting and eating more bluefin tuna than we were expected to catch!

In 2012 we managed to take action at global level: we implemented, within the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a very strict recovery plan based on advice by scientists. Quotas have been reduced, our fleet has become smaller and the fishing period has been shortened – this year, it will start next Monday 26 May and already close a month later, on 24 June.  Read the full entry


May 16th, 2014
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Driftnets are a harmful practiceDriftnet fishing – with vertical nets – is an irresponsible practice. It is a non-selective fishery which leads to non-targeted catches. It threatens marine wildlife and species which are protected under EU legislation. Tolerating this practice comes in contradiction with our newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

One of the core principles of our Reform is to reduce the pressure of fishing activities on marine ecosystems. This is a key value that we promote also in our international agreements. It is important that we remain coherent and ensure such prohibited and destructive practices are not taking place in the EU anymore. We need to lead by example on sustainability.

This is why, after extensive consultations, I proposed this week a ban on the use of driftnets in European waters. Why a total ban? Because up to now, there were numerous exemptions in the existing prohibition, generating loopholes. Only a total ban will leave no room for ambivalent interpretation.

This was the last missing piece of the puzzle of our reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. I hope that we can complete this puzzle by the end of this year and have no more driftnets in our waters by January 2015.

Last update: 24/07/2014 | Top