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EurOCEAN 2007 tackles European Maritime Policy

Meeting on 22 June 2007 in Aberdeen, members of the scientific community, along with policy makers and industry representatives, debated a future maritime policy for Europe. The aim was to develop a clear and coherent vision for maritime research in the form of an ‘Aberdeen Declaration’.

Assembled participants
EurOCEAN 2007

“We are more convinced than ever that excellence in marine science and technology must be the foundation of a European Maritime Policy,” said European Fish and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Joe Borg. “There is no doubt that we are facing some major challenges. So many human activities are directly related to the seas and oceans, while climate change threatens to drastically affect marine ecosystems and the economy. That is why we need to make the best possible decisions today, to ensure the wealth and welfare of future generations.”

Borg called for more cross-sector co-operation, and better harmonisation of marine and maritime-related activities in Europe. “Better coordinated actions across the Member States can help tap unexploited resource, including blue technologies and biotechnologies, renewable energy and mineral resources. The list goes on and on.”

Staying on target

Maritime research delivers important knowledge to benefit the environment and society at large but it also forms the basis of a strong European economy. “By working together,” says Borg, “the research and business communities can turn science into real and commercially viable technologies.” The aim, he said, is to bring all European maritime interests together, to eliminate duplication of efforts and to create a unified Strategic Maritime Research Agenda, getting everyone on the same page, working together to achieve clearly identified goals and priorities.

Joe Borg
Joe Borg

The EurOCEAN 2007 event, held in the ‘Granite City’, was organised by representatives of marine stakeholders. The aim was to provide a forum for the research community to develop a strategic approach to marine research priorities, in support of the development of the European Maritime Policy.

Graham Shimmield of the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences had the honour of welcoming participants to his country, saying, “The diversity and intellectual capacity that exists in this field across Europe is phenomenal.”

The event was timed to coincide with the culmination of the Maritime Policy Green Paper. EurOCEAN 2007 Organising Committee Chairman Lars Horn said, “This groundbreaking document offers an unprecedented opportunity to the marine sciences community to demonstrate that knowledge of the oceans has a major contribution to make to ocean governance and the sustainable development of marine resources, as well as to address global challenges such as climate change.”

The Aberdeen Declaration

The Aberdeen 2007 Declaration was to be the main output of the conference. It follows the Galway 2004 Declaration, which had a major influence on EU and national research programmes. The hope is that this declaration, by bringing together the voices of European marine scientists and expressing their strategic priorities, will deliver a strong impetus to the essential research pillar of the future European Maritime Policy.

“The Aberdeen Declaration should be a joint statement,” explained Horn, “identifying priorities to support Europe’s Lisbon goals. This is a golden opportunity for the maritime sector. We are not starting from scratch here, but the Green Paper has laid out some very important questions that need to be answered before we can move forward.”

Identifying priorities

Presentations during the event focused on two broad themes: the importance and impact of marine science and technology in Europe; and the specific challenges for marine science and technology in the context of the European Maritime Policy.

Discussions covered items in the current draft declaration, including the preparation of a comprehensive and integrated ‘European Marine and Maritime Sciences, Research, Technology and Innovation Strategy’. Several speakers addressed the need for adequate and sustained funding, as well as the importance of economic development, effective environmental management and ocean and coastal governance. Top-level science, it was agreed, is an essential contributor in all these areas.

A wrap-up session, led by Peter Heffernan of the Irish Marine Institute, focused on the declaration draft, which will be finalised and presented to the EU in autumn 2007.