Blue Growth - Member states are the lead actor | JPI OCEANS

Blue Growth - Member states are the lead actor


Blue Growth - Member states are the lead actor

Sustainable growth in the sectors of aquaculture and coastal tourism was the focus of a meeting in the European Parliament on the 19th of March. These are two of the five targeted areas of the European Union's Blue Growth Strategy that was launched in 2012. JPI Oceans was invited to discuss tools for implementing Blue Growth.

Collaboration is key to address the oceans grand challenges

The EU has given priority to the marine and maritime sector in it’s new, 80 billion Euro research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. However Patricia Reilly, member of the cabinet of the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, delivered the message that it is not the EU that is the main actor in financing research and innovation but the member statesand therefore EU funds can only have a complementary role. Reilly therefore welcomed that so many countries have been willing to join forces in JPI Oceans. 

JPI Oceans, bringing together representatives from 20 national ministries and national funding bodies, opens the opportunity to coordinate cross-border resources and to implement the vision of healthy and productive seas and oceans. Director of the JPI Oceans secretariat, Kathrine Angell-Hansen argued that the present situation with sectorial focus, although it might benefit sectorial research, limits the opportunity to benefit from synergies across different sectors. Angell-Hansen stated that JPI Oceans is a unique instrument in the marine and maritime research landscape because of it’s capacity to take decisions on cross-sectorial challenges and opportunities based on voluntary participation from the member countries.

Angell-Hansen explained that JPI Oceans’ vision is coordination of research funding from the member countries in order to address the oceans grand challenges. The goal is to maximise the potential of the maritime economy in a sustainable way whilst developing knowledge, ensuring the good environmental status of the seas, optimising both activity planning in the marine space and the response to climate change and mitigating human impacts on the marine environment. To highlight the benefit of a cross-sectorial approach Angell-Hansen used material constructions in the sea as an example of how there are common denominators across maritime sectors and emphasised that a healthy ocean is important both for tourism industry and aquaculture.


Sustainable and knowledge-based growth

Ernesto Penas Taldo from the European Commission emphasised the EU strategy to boost aquaculture growth from 2013, he went on to argue that growth in EU aquaculture production should be knowledge-based and built upon tough environmental standards. This will create a sustainable product that consumers are willing to pay extra for, stated Taldo, he continued on to say that European industry cannot compete on price and should therefore focus on quality as a competitive advantage.

Ann Dom from Seas at Risk reminded the audience that several NGOs have warned against a unilateral focus on growth and highlighted the need for cooperation between different ministries to secure sustainable development. Dom referred to the recent HOPE-conference that gathered stakeholders related to the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as missing the involvement of industry. She called for a transition to ecosystem-based management of oceans and reminded that this was the message from the HOPE-conference.

Several of those in the audience who took the floor chose to focus on the environmental effects of aquaculture. Courtney Hough, General Secretary of the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), pointed out that the industry makes a lot of positive efforts towards sustainability; they are themselves dependent on good environmental status, and quantified that the ecological footprint of aquaculture is far lower than in many other parts of the food sector.


From opportunity to implementation

To present different tools for the implementation of the blue growth strategy, the Chair and Member of the European Parliament Maria do Céu Patrão Neves introduced a panel that included the director of the JPI Oceans secretariat, Kathrine Angell Hansen, Patricia Reilly from the European Commission and MEP Gesine Meissner.

Angell-Hansen pointed out that one experience from JPI Oceans is that many countries recognise the need for an inter-ministerial dialogue to be formalised, and therefore have started to establish or are in the process of establishing such cooperation to ensure sustainable knowledge-based development.

Reilly thanked the European Parliament both for having helped to secure the budget for Horizon 2020 and that they had helped to strengthen marine and maritime research in the final program. The European Commission has created a special unit for marine resources in the Directorate General for Research (DG RTD). The unit is headed by Siggi Gruber and is responsible for coordinating marine and maritime research in Horizon 2020. Gruber is also the European Commission's representative in the JPI Oceans Management Board.

Meissner has recently had her hands full, as European Parliament’s Rapporteur, ensuring that the proposed directive for Marine Spatial Planning is adopted. The Directive has undergone long and hard negotiations between Member States and the European Parliament. She acknowledged that there were many in the European Parliament who were disappointed that they had failed to persuade member states and to include a stronger focus on integrated coastal zone planningin the directive. However, Meissner argued the focus should be on the importance of putting in place this tool in all EU member states before starting the implementation of the EU blue growth strategy.

The Chair concluded that the European Parliament had put the blue sector high on the agenda, and that it was important to bring this legacy into the new Parliament once elected.

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