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Charting a course for maritime policy and sustainable fishing - 16/10/2009

Coast guards and fisheries inspectors in the North Sea © EC

Proposals tabled for collaboration on sea surveillance, bigger EU role in global maritime affairs and sustainable fishing.

Two years after the EU launched its integrated maritime policy, the commission has delivered the first progress report.

It has also set out maritime priorities and tabled proposals to increase cooperation between EU countries on sea surveillance and strengthen EU influence in global maritime affairs.

Although the maritime policy is relatively new, “it has already succeeded in changing the way Europe deals with its maritime assets,” says maritime commissioner Joe Borg.

Europe has 70 000 km of coastline, bordering two oceans and four seas that support a vast array of activities from trade and shipping to fishing and tourism. But the seas are also the scene of ship accidents, cargo spills, illegal and unregulated fishing practices, piracy, organised crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and terrorist threats.

At present, responsibility for dealing with these challenges is divided between various national authorities – border control, customs, port security and defence, for example.

A priority in the years ahead is to get these different bodies working together. Sustainable growth is another top goal, along with greater EU influence in international efforts to better manage the seas. And two pilot projects – one in the Mediterranean and another in the North Sea – will test the integration of surveillance activities.

In a separate initiative, the commission has also proposed new fishing quotas for 2010, based on the quantities of fish scientists believe can be caught without causing permanent damage to fish populations.

The fish most at risk are cod, herring and anchovies – in 2008 a greater proportion of cod stocks was caught than in any other year since 1999.

“There will always be the few lone voices of discontent and of short-termism, advocating catching just a little more right now, and putting off sustainability for another year. This must not be how we proceed,” explains Joe Borg.

More on EU maritime policy

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