The European Commission reported significant progress in delivering against its first strategy for Europe’s seas, oceans and coasts – Blue Growth Strategy – including influencing the international policy agenda.
Although the Blue Growth Strategy was only adopted in 2012, widespread acceptance of these ideas has moved conservation and sustainable use of the oceans up the international policy agenda. Following the RIO+20 Summit, one of the UN’s sustainability goals is to conserve use of the oceans, seas and marine resources sustainably.
The European Commission has launched initiatives in many policy areas to facilitate cooperation on the sustainability of the marine environment. It has not, however, relied on regulation but on enabling market forces by removing those barriers and market failures that prevent innovation and investment.
The Blue Growth Strategy, focused on five innovative, high-potential maritime sectors (blue energy, aquaculture, coastal and maritime tourism, blue biotechnology and sea-bed mining) has delivered the following successes:
- Huge growth in employment associated with offshore wind farms (offshore renewable energy has become a significant job classification for Europe’s maritime jobs)
- Agreement on a way for tidal and wave energy to achieve their potential
- Tackling regulatory barriers to aquaculture
- Growth in employment in maritime tourism
- Products from marine biotechnology research are reaching the market
- Development of technologies for monitoring the environmental impact of deep-sea mining .
The report identifies that whilst funding is available for large projects and well-established industries, there are still problems in attracting investment into the blue economy for high potential but risky ventures.
Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: “If sustainably managed, the oceans offer great potential for new jobs and growth in the EU and beyond. This report shows how the EU and its Member States are removing obstacles to the growth of this promising sector while safeguarding the highest environmental standards.”
This report will shape the next few years of blue growth.