October 28th, 2014
When I took office in 2010, I made a point of honor to put sustainability at the core of European Fisheries and Maritime policies. May it be social, economic or environmental. And I have to say that I will leave Brussels with the impression that we have really made progress.
Here we are, five years later, with a radically shifted Common Fisheries policy and the tools to tap into the growing potential of our Blue economy. We have agreed on new sustainable rules. But it is now time to make sure that these new rules will actually be implemented. Why?
Well, because only if we live up to what we agreed will we be able to steer the course of a sustainable future for our seas and oceans.
When I started, we had 5 healthy fish stocks. And today this number is up to 27 healthy fish stocks. If we steer the course even further, the policy will bring all fish stocks to sustainable levels again, thus providing fishermen with more resources.
Also, Blue Growth is now a sustainable reality. We have put the potential for innovation and growth of various sectors into light. Coastal tourism, ocean energy, aquaculture, marine biotechnology and seabed mining are drivers for the European economy and are already showing their contribution to helping Europe out of the recession. Currently, up to 5.5 million blue jobs do exist on the market. If we steer the course, we will also be able to build safer and further on the economic potential of our oceans. That means that more jobs can be created: for the longer term – and the sake of young people.
I have no doubt that my successor, Commissioner Vella, will continue on the path of sustainability. A lot of effort is needed to continue the hard work. So I wish him every success. Our seas and oceans deserve all these efforts.
October 17th, 2014
One in nine people worldwide suffers from hunger and malnutrition. The number is hitting hard on the occasion of World Food Day.
We all know the crucial role fish plays in food security. But it is also no secret that we are overfishing our seas, and are putting our wild fish stocks in danger. This why fish farming is the key to an increased offer of sustainable fish and seafood, while alleviating the pressure on our natural resources. The new Common Fisheries Policy is providing a framework and financial support to European aquaculture.
This year’s World Food Day is specifically dedicated to Family Farming. Indeed, small scale fishermen and family-owned fish farming businesses contribute to the progress and the development of coastal communities and local economies. Also, with amongst the strictest environmental and health standards in the world, the EU is leading the way in setting standards for fish farming in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.
So my message is that we need to promote this sector and high safety standards in Europe and elsewhere. This is not only crucial to create jobs, but also to ensure food security while protecting our limited natural resources.
October 9th, 2014
Since Russia has introduced an embargo on imports of European fisheries products this summer, we agreed that we need to help our fisheries sector in Europe – and quick. I urged EU governments to make use of Europe’s maritime and fisheries fund to help producer organisations store fisheries products until new markets can be found. I also raised the possibility of banking more than the regular 10% of unused fishing quota to 2015.
On Monday, I will ask EU ministers at our Council meeting in Luxemburg to act on this. Scientists tell us that quota banking would on the whole have a slightly positive effect for sustainability. So I hope that Ministers will agree to increase the banking of some of this year’s fishing quotas to up to 30%.
This fishing season will soon come to an end. So we urgently need certainty about the possibility of such transfers. The ball is now in the court of the EU governments to take a decision.
October 3rd, 2014
It has become clear over the past years that our seas and oceans can generate huge economic growth and create jobs, much needed in these times. That is why we have been working for the past five years on our Blue Growth strategy to foster sustainable blue economy. Ocean energy is part of this strategy. It is a very promising sector, capable to exploit an indigenous, predictable, safe source of clean energy.
Earlier this year, in April, we launched an Action plan on blue energy. Part of it is the creation of the Ocean Energy Forum, gathering all stakeholders to cooperate and elaborate the further development of the sector.
This Wednesday I was proud to take part in the very first high-level meeting of this Ocean Energy Forum. Together with EU Ministers and stakeholders we discussed the ways of overcoming the challenges of ocean energy but also the progress made.
I am convinced the time is now.
I told the stakeholders I met on Wednesday to “get ready”. We have set up a good basis for ocean energy, very much appreciated after the Ukrainian conflict. It is clear that renewable energy is the future the EU wants to invest in. There is an open door for blue energy to become an EU success story.
September 26th, 2014
One of the paradoxes of our time is that, while half of our young people are unemployed in the EU, the blue industry has difficulties to find people with the appropriate skills. We know for example that there is a shortage of qualified workers for the growing sector of offshore wind industry.
Considering that the EU needs to be at the forefront of Blue innovation and should not risk being overtaken by competitors, we need to concretely address this skills gap.
But how? Well, by bridging the gap between the education sector and stakeholders of the labour market.
All stakeholders, industry, researchers, training institutes and universities should closely cooperate and map the skills needed by the sector. Like this, industry and academia can design together training programmes which would help better match the competences needed with the requirements of the blue labour market.
Blue economy features a wide range of professions, from shipbuilding to tourism, aquaculture and offshore energy, all of which require diverse qualifications and skills. This is why the EU is working towards addressing the skills gap in these sectors. It is part of the Communication which I tabled earlier in June in order to contribute to stimulating Blue innovation, while fostering growth and creating jobs.
September 19th, 2014
To achieve sustainable fishing, the revised rules of the Common Fisheries Policy need to be fully respected. But how can we ensure that they are in practice?
Well, by efficient and harmonised control systems.
In a spirit of subsidiarity, fisheries control means are agreed at EU level, but need to be concretely implemented on the ground by national authorities. Therefore, to guarantee a level playing field between fishermen, the European Commission checks how Member States implement their common obligations. It also provides Member States with support, where necessary, so that their control systems meet the European requirements. For the development of IT tools or the reinforcement of existing control systems the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund can provide substantial financing.
For instance, the Portuguese Action Plan proposed last Thursday is part of a broader scheme to collaborate with Member States. With France, Spain, Italy, Latvia and Malta we have already agreed on specific Action Plans to fill missing links or reinforce the effectiveness of their controls. So doing, we ensure that we all play by the same rules, a prerequisite to preserve the sustainability of our marine resources.
September 13th, 2014
Earlier this summer, Russia has decided to impose a trade ban on various products from the European Union, from fruits and vegetables to meat and dairy products, including fisheries products.
In terms of exports, Russia represents 5 % of EU’s external fish trade. For example, in 2013, these exports corresponded to 144 million €. This ban has an obvious impact on European fishermen and aquaculture producers. Therefore we are working on solutions to support these losses.
I want to reassure European fishermen: first of all they can immediately use money from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to help them store the products they haven’t sold to Russian market.
Also, the Common Fisheries Policy allows Member States to shift to the next year up to 10% of the quota they have not used the previous year. This could be applied in 2015 to unused quotas. Additionally, we are working on an exemption, exceptionally allowing to go beyond this 10% of quota shifting for impacted Member States. But for this Scientific advice first has to confirm that this is not putting the long-term sustainability of our stocks at risk.
September 5th, 2014
The European Union has now a new Directive for Maritime Spatial planning. Before proposing, I have worked together with Commissioner Potočnik to be sure that consistency between sea and coast was there. We asked Member States to map their activities at sea while taking into account land-sea interactions. Like this, one can make sure to have a sustainable and coherent management of our European coastlines and seas.
Yesterday, in a constructive meeting with Europa Nostra in Athens, the representatives of the organisation raised their concerns on a series of issues relating to the maritime environmental and cultural heritage of Greece. Amongst these was the recent draft bill published by the Greek authorities on coastal development and boundary marking, management and protection of the coastline and shores. The bill included the lifting of all restrictions on the area designated for constructions for business purposes and made it possible for businesses to pay fines to legalise unlicensed. Because of the reactions, the bill was finally withdrawn, but the issue is still pending.
This legislation has to be presented in connection with the necessary scientific work for mapping and maritime spatial planning, because these tools are essential in managing our coastlines. It is the only way to harmonise the different interacting activities, such as tourism and aquaculture for example. Without the correct delineation of the coastline, there is a risk of destroying precious resources and undermine the future potential for growth of these areas.
This potential of Greek coastlines and islands is to be seen not only as a resource for the country, but also as a unique, non-replaceable resource for the whole of Europe.
August 29th, 2014
The fight against illegal fishing was one of the cornerstones of my five-year mandate as EU Fisheries Commissioner. The reason is obvious: as the world’s biggest importer of fish, the EU has a special responsibility to ensure that the fish we have on our plate has been caught legally. This role also means that we can put pressure on other countries to respect internationally agreed rules.
Only four years ago, the EU’s Regulation on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing entered into force. It was a means to stop criminal fishing activities by allowing access into the EU market only for fisheries products, which are certified as legal, by the flag State of origin. In this vein, we are cooperating with those countries where such activities are most widespread, generating the heaviest toll on local communities and their fish resources. Since 2012, the EU has alerted 11 countries, that they need to do more to fight illegal fishing activities in their waters, and has banned fish imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia because they did not cooperate. Read the full entry