The blue planet

Michel Claessens
Michel Claessens
Editor in chief

It is yet another European paradox. Despite a territory a third the size of Africa, Europe has three times its coastline. Yet maritime policy remains for the most part fragmented and managed by national governments. The seas and oceans nevertheless have an impact on all the EU Member States. Quite literally, as almost half its citizens live within 50 km of the coast, but also figuratively as the issues at stake – economic, environmental and social – are considerable. Fishing, transport, trade, pollution, global warming, tourism: the seas and oceans are at the centre of many processes, each interacting closely with the other. Their integrated, cross-sectoral and transnational management is therefore vital. Such is the objective set by the Commission in its recently published “Blue Paper”, a visionary policy document in which research is acknowledged as a key element of this vision, as our readers will surely note with interest.

The sea was the cradle of life on Earth, around 3.8 billion years ago. Water is the symbol of life and makes our planet a unique satellite in this small corner of the universe. This original and vital aspect should in itself be enough to respect this natural element. But the human species, which is just one of the representatives of the Earth’s biodiversity, is disturbing and threatening the vast oceanic ecosystem. This complex system of balances, interdependencies and interactions must be approached and dealt with as a whole. Its survival as well as our own depends on this. Let us hope that these fundamental considerations have some impact on our coastal policies.