European Commissioner Karmenu Vella opened the 23rd North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference in Tórshavn, the Faroe Islands, by welcoming progress made under the EU’s agenda on international ocean governance.
The Commissioner began by discussing the need for an agenda on international ocean governance to effectively respond to the challenges facing oceans and maritime stakeholders around the globe. These challenges include:
- Rising sea levels
- Rising water temperature
- Marine litter
- Overfishing of commercial fish stocks, and
- Illegal activity in international waters, including smuggling, human trafficking, illegal fishing and piracy.
As well as damaging marine ecosystems, these challenges carry broader economic costs; some 30% of commercial fish stocks are overfished, which is threatening the sustainability of fishing, and the cost of illegal fishing around the world is estimated at €10bn per year.
How is the EU tackling these challenges?
Vella highlighted the EU’s current efforts to prevent overfishing and protect marine ecosystems, including by strengthening its Common Fisheries Policy and the Integrated Maritime Policy, which co-ordinates efforts among stakeholders with the aim of achieving sustainable fisheries before the end of 2020.
However, he emphasised that the challenges facing the ocean are not only European problems. “They’re global issues,” Vella said. “Climate change knows no borders. Fish have neither passports nor nationalities. A plastic bottle entering the ocean in Asia can end up halfway around the world – and will still be floating in the sea when our great-great-grandchildren go to the beach.”
What has the Commission done to address the global scale of these challenges?
A strong, international framework was needed to facilitate co-operation on a broader scale, in order to effectively meet the challenges Vella described. This is why the EU prepared an agenda on international ocean governance in 2016, in which it detailed 50 actions aimed at reducing pressures on the oceans to create the conditions for a sustainable blue economy, improving global ocean governance and strengthening ocean research and data.
The EU will publish a report on the successes of the EU’s agenda on international ocean governance later this year, and also aims to expand its collaborative efforts with third countries, including Brazil, Argentina and South Africa.