Rio+20: business as usual will not help the oceans
Twenty years after the historical Conference of United Nations on Environment and Development, which paved the way towards sustainable development policies, the EU takes part in the third UN Conference on Sustainable Development that will take place on 20-22 June 2012 in Rio (Rio+20) to bring ambitious ideas to the table of discussions for our common future.
Marine ecosystems are central to human well-being and the sustainable management of oceans and seas, including sustainable fisheries, are essential to achieve the goals of a "blue" economy in terms of sustainable economic growth, poverty eradication and job creation with decent working conditions.
The maritime economy in Europe accounts for a production value of around 500 billion euro. This value could be even higher, if marine resources were exploited sustainably. If protected and well managed, the seas can unlock smart growth and they can create high-value jobs and contribute to both the European and the global economic recovery.
We need to fuel Blue Growth –the sustainable growth from the oceans, seas and coasts–identifying the most promising maritime sectors and getting policies to reinforce the assets that drive them forward and remove the bottlenecks that hinder their development. We need to address framework conditions underpinning growth, such as maritime research and development, smart infrastructure, clusters, access to finance and necessary education, skills and training.
And we need to be serious in analysing the economic potential on one hand and the environmental and social challenges on the other, and in combining that with a practical and targeted approach to governance.
In relation to fisheries, the messages that underpins the reform proposals for the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU that I tabled in 2011 are the same that the European Commission will bring to the table in Rio: it is time to restore and maintaining stocks that can produce maximum sustainable yield, eliminating the disgraceful practice of discards, adopting and implementing fisheries management principles such as the ecosystem and precautionary approaches as well as the need to base management measures on the best available science, improving cooperation among States, reducing overcapacity and eliminating destructive fishing practices.
Moreover, the EU is committed for a zero tolerance policy for Illegal Unreported Unregulated fishing and towards shaping a governance framework that would address both the conservation and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Ocean issues have to be a priority: business as usual will not help the oceans.