Working to ensure sustainability of our seas and oceans - Commissioner Damanaki on World Oceans Day

The 8 of June, the World Oceans Day of the United Nations is an opportunity for the international community to celebrate our oceans, the precious common heritage of humanity, the blue dominant vital resource of our planet.

This year the World Oceans Day has a much greater poignancy for two reasons. Firstly, this year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which is considered as the constitution of the Oceans as it provides the overall legal framework for all human activities in the oceans. Secondly, June 8 just precedes the third UN Earth Summit Rio + 20 and where it is the Commission's intention that it should deliver an important message of sustainability of the oceans and their resources and blue growth: we need to set the rules for the exploitation of oceans and seas to be sustainable and able to contribute to the collective wealth of humanity.

In particular, the Commission is working to ensure that at Rio the global community recognises the need of a third UNCLOS implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The European Union has been working systematically during several years to ensure sustainability of our seas and oceans.

The European Commission is developing the Blue Growth initiative towards sustainable growth in marine and maritime economic activities. Blue Growth refers to sustainable growth and employment based on marine resources, scientific and economic activities in established, emerging and prospective maritime sectors, as well as in the coastal regions.

We are identifying innovative sources of sustainable growth from the oceans, seas and coastal regions, based on a comprehensive, consistent and robust analysis. To unlock this potential, we endeavour to address the barriers to sustainable growth in marine and maritime sectors and move towards a functional and effective framework that will foster special training and enhancing of specific skills as well as marine and maritime research and development.

Special attention is being given to marine and maritime sectors such as coastal, maritime and cruise tourism, renewable ocean energy resources, marine mineral resources and blue biotechnology, including the high value of using marine resources for health, cosmetics and well-being.

Blue Growth is a vital strategy for the future, able to boost sustainable development and serve as a model also for other regional areas around the world, in particular for emerging economies.

Last but not least, the European Commission is also in the run up to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The reform is centred on long-term sustainability. We want to ensure that our stocks will be fished in a sustainable way by 2015 through the application of exploitation rates at levels of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). In our multi-annual plans we will also apply the ecosystem approach to take into account the link between fishing and the ecosystem.

Furthermore, the wasteful practice of discarding (throwing overboard of unwanted fish) must come to an end and all the catches landed. Finally, European aquaculture will be given more attention starting with the development of strategic development plans by the Member States.

We have ambitious objectives for Rio. We will participate constructively for a positive outcome. This is a good opportunity to take decisive action for the environment and improve international governance, notably for the seas and oceans, including fisheries. But it is also an opportunity to start using the oceans' economic potential. They can deliver smart, green and sustainable growth. And isn’t that what Europe and the world need right now?

I believe that today’s celebrations may raise the awareness among citizens further. Their support is vital for the success of any policy initiative for our common future. So that we may continue celebrating the World Oceans Day with sustainable and prosperous oceans.

Last update: 17/04/2013 |  Top