Maritime affairs and fisheries
From Sofia, where she met Dr. Miroslav Naydenov, Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture and Food of Bulgaria, Commissioner Damanaki expressed her satisfaction with the release of a Bulgarian vessel that has been detained by Romanian authorities since April 2011, when its crew was accused of poaching. The vessel is to be released on Monday.
"I am very pleased to bring the good news to Bulgaria about the decision of Romania to release the Bulgarian vessel hold in Romania. I just came from Romania and am very satisfied that the Romanian authorities informed me about this decision taken yesterday while I was in Bucharest", Commissioner Damanaki said.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki met with Dr. Miroslav Naydenov, Bulgarian Minister of Agriculture and Food. The meeting focussed on regional cooperation on fisheries in the Black Sea, the development of Bulgarian aquaculture industry and the best way to make use of EU funding opportunities in the areas of fisheries and maritime policy.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki visits Romania and Bulgaria on 29 and 30 March, respectively, to discuss maritime and fisheries-related issues and cooperation in the Black Sea basin. Ms Damanaki will meet Mr Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, Prime Minister of Romania, and Mr Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria. Ministers, members of national parliaments and stakeholders are her other interlocutors.
Commissioner Damanaki said: "My visit is going to focus on fisheries and integrated maritime policy issues - with a strong Black Sea angle. Cooperation is of strategic importance for the Black Sea region. The countries around the basin need to enhance cooperation to tackle the challenges such as illegal fishing or pollution, and to make most of the opportunities in trade or tourism. The Commission stands ready to facilitate this process".
The European Parliament Committee for Fisheries discussed today political priorities for the months ahead and for 2013.
Commissioner Damanaki, presenting the Commission position, stressed that "The adoption of the reform is our key priority. The sooner the reform is adopted, the quicker its benefits for the sector can start to materialise. We will be able to start moving towards sustainable fishing, and we will benefit from additional income and extra jobs."
On the basis of the meeting, the European Parliament will prepare a resolution containing its political priorities, to be adopted in July.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki met today with Mr Koji Sekimizu, Secretary General of International Maritime Organization.
The cooperation for maritime development in the Mediterranean Sea, maritime surveillance, safety at sea for fishing vessels and the need for enhanced cooperation to combat piracy were among the issues discussed at the meeting.
Somali pirates captured two Seychellois fishermen, Ronny Tambara, 70, and Marc Songoire, 63, who were fishing in Seychelles waters, 60 miles from the island of Mahé at the beginning of November 2011. The two artisanal fishermen are still kept hostage somewhere in Somalia.
Commissioner Damanaki stated: "I want to make a strong appeal for the release of two Seychellois fishermen, Ronny Tambara and Marc Songoire, who have been kept hostage by Somali pirates for four months now." She also underlined that "We must do our utmost to eradicate the scourge of piracy. The European Union has a key role to play in that respect and is committed to use all instruments at its disposal. Even through the network of Fisheries Partnership Agreements, which strengthens our relations with the countries in the Western Indian Ocean area, and the regional surveillance programme that we are financing,we are aiming to make a significant contribution to that end."
Several mackerel fisheries in the North-East Atlantic might have their sustainability certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) suspended. Commissioner Maria Damanaki commented: "The looming suspension of MSC certification for mackerel is very worrying. This shows that the unilateral and irresponsible behaviour of Iceland and the Faroes Islands has brought the stock down. These States should be constructive in the context of Coastal State Negotiations, so that a solution can be found on an urgent basis."
Commissioner Maria Damanaki met with representatives of German fisheries industry, to discuss the proposals for the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy and for the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
Commissioner Damanaki said: "I am glad that the German industry understands the need for reforming our fisheries policy and that they are willing to take ownership of the process, contributing to its success through practical solutions to reach our common goals".
EU Ministers had a first debate on different aspects of the proposal for reforming the Common Fisheries Policy. Commissioner Damanaki took part in the discussions, which ranged from the proposed discards ban to the role of Producers Organisations and labelling and the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
At the end of the works, Commissioner Damanaki stated: "What we have done today - and this is a great step forward - is that we have already agreed between ourselves that we need the discard ban. From now on, we are going to focus on how and when we're going to achieve it."
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council backed the Commission proposal on shark finning.
At the margin of the Council meeting, Commissioner Damanaki said "It is important that we close the loopholes in EU legislation: landing sharks with their fins attached, as we proposed in November, would ease control and help us eradicating shark finning. I am glad to see that the EU Council agrees with this approach and I very much hope that the European Parliament will do the same, so that new rules can swiftly become reality."
On Thursday, Commissioner Maria Damanaki discussed the Commission proposals for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy with the Italian Parliament and with Minister Mario Catania.
Read more and comment on Commissioner Damanaki's blog: A fatal taste for baby-fish
Nine northern EU Member States plus Norway and Russia have finalised a pilot project on Maritime Surveillance in the Northern Sea Basins (MARSUNO) initiated by the European Commission. These partners make a number of recommendations for overcoming the hurdles to creating a Common Information Sharing Environment ('CISE') for the surveillance of the EU maritime domain .
Commissioner Maria Damanaki welcomed the final report: "Our objective is to ensure safer seas while saving costs. I welcome the results of the MARSUNO project which has demonstrated that data-sharing across borders and across sectors like maritime transport, environmental protection, customs, border guarding, fishery inspection, law enforcement and defence is possible and improves reaction capacity."
On 26 March in Brussels, Commissioner Maria Damanaki will host an international conference on how maritime spatial planning can contribute to boosting growth. The conference "The case for Maritime Spatial Planning: efficient resource management for sustainable growth", will provide an opportunity for ministers, national authorities, industry representatives and NGOs to discuss best practice examples from within the EU and around the world and the challenges for Maritime Spatial Planning in the European context.
Ahead of the event, Commissioner Damanaki said: "Maritime Spatial Planning is a key tool for combining the sustainable use of marine natural resources with maritime economic activities to create further growth in maritime and coastal economies."