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Ocean of opportunity - 19/05/2009

Logo for European maritime day ©EC

European maritime day highlights the importance of the sea and oceans for daily life

Overfishing, pollution, piracy, coastal climate change and offshore wind energy – all topics addressed at a recent EU conference on maritime policy.

The high-profile conference brought environmentalists, scientists and leaders in industry and government to Rome for three days of workshops. Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and commission president José Manuel Barroso were among the keynote speakers.

The concerns raised will feed into future developments of the EU maritime policy.

The meeting on 19-20 May was one of about 40 events held across the EU to mark European maritime day. They included workshops, exhibits, open days at ports and environmental projects.

Last year the EU designated 20 May as a day for celebrating the importance of the sea in European history, culture and economy. But it’s also an occasion to highlight the opportunities and challenges for regions and businesses that depend on the sea.

The EU boasts some 70 000 km of coastline divided among 22 countries. Maritime regions are home to about 40% of the population - roughly 200m people – and generate about 40% of the EU’s gross domestic product through port operations, shipping, fishing, tourism and other activities.

Many EU policies have a maritime dimension, and until recently most were managed sector by sector. But with competition between these activities growing along the coast, the EU is now putting in place an integrated strategy to ensure maritime resources are used sustainably.

That strategy was launched in June 2007. Since then, the commission has introduced proposals to spur maritime research, develop ports, improve management of maritime space and lower barriers to shipping.

Other proposals seek to boost offshore wind energy, help coastal communities adapt to climate change and support people employed in shipping and fishing.

Most recently, the commission proposed new legislation to fight illegal fishing. It also launched an EU-wide consultation on a fundamental reform of the European fisheries policy.


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