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Maritime policy outlined at EUROMARES 2010 conference

The EUROMARES 2010 conference in May 2010 featured the latest advances and emerging ideas in the field of marine research, innovation and maritime policy.

Peter Gutierrez © Peter Gutierrez
The Maritime city of Gijón hosted EUROMARES
© Peter Gutierrez

Organised jointly by the European Commission, the Spanish Ministry of Marine Affairs, the Principality of Asturias, and the City Council of Gijón,  EUROMARES 2010external link brought together hundreds of scientists, industry representatives, policy makers and maritime authorities to discuss ' Marine and maritime research and innovation as a keystone for the integrated assessment and sustainable use of the European seas'. Participants came from all the Member States of the European Union and beyond.

"For too long we ignored maritime concerns and the marine environment," said the President of Asturias, Vicente Alvarez Areces. "We moved forward very quickly with industrial initiatives without taking into account the effects our actions could have on the seas and oceans, and we paid a price. Now, by working together, we are doing much better."

Making progress

Alvarez Areces cited progress made all along the coast of Asturias, where key regional initiatives with the support of the Spanish government have led to better industrial practices and major improvements in coastal habitats and recreational facilities that do not harm the environment.

"Today we see new opportunities for growth and employment," he stressed, "to develop aquaculture and new renewable energy sources. But we must be inclusive. The improvements we have made are the result of working together. We want to include all of Europe in marine research, to reduce duplication of efforts and bring together our knowledge."

Vicente Alvarez Areces © Peter Gutierrez
Vicente Alvarez Areces
© Peter Gutierrez

Representing the European Commission, Paul Nemitz, Head of Maritime Policy Development and Coordination at the Commission's Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, "Our policies must be based on science and they must be aimed at protecting the environment while stimulating economic growth. This is not about creating 'no-go' zones, this is about sustainable development."

Strong policy framework

Nemitz outlined a number of key initiatives now being aimed at coordinating efforts and maximizing the benefits of EU-wide research and technological development. Some of those include:

  • The EU Water Framework Directive
    European Water Policy has undergone a thorough restructuring process. The Water Framework Directive is the operational tool, setting the objectives for water protection for the future.
  • The Marine Strategy Framework Directive
    The purpose of this ambitious Directive, adopted in 2008, is to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe. It aims to achieve good environmental status of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive constitutes the vital environmental component of the Union's overarching Maritime Policy, designed to achieve the full economic potential of oceans and seas in harmony with the marine environment.
  • EU Marine and Maritime Research Strategy
    The European Commission’s Communication on Marine and Maritime Research, published in 2008, laid out an action plan for better integration of research among the maritime and marine communities in order to address the problems of marine degradation caused by human activities and to develop new technologies for sustainable development of maritime activities. The EU publication, 'A sea change for ocean management: A European strategy for marine and maritime research' pdf - 3 MB [3 MB] , based on that communication, explains the context behind its creation and some of the proposed actions. In general terms, the aim of the Strategy is to develop better integration of research, while acknowledging the importance of efforts within different research disciplines, e.g. cleaner and more efficient marine engines, better design of vessels, optimal logistics of traffic flows, safety and security of maritime activities, image of shipping, etc.
  • Healthy and Productive Oceans and Seas
    A Joint Programming Initiative aimed at meeting the major challenges facing European Seas and Oceans, at maximising in a sustainable way the benefits that Europe's societies will draw from seas and oceans, as an important economic basis in terms of jobs, services, products and social welfare, while mitigating the negative impacts of climate change.
EUROMARES 2010 conference © Peter Gutierrez
EUROMARES 2010 conference
© Peter Gutierrez

A wide-ranging programme

EUROMARES 2010 took place within the framework of the third edition of the European Maritime Days bringing together all sectors implicated in marine and maritime research, exactly the kind of wide-ranging programme called for by Alvarez Areces.

EUROMARES 2010 technical sessions covered topical areas of interest to both research and industrial communities, including:

  • Sustainable fisheries and mariculture
  • Marine biotechnologies
  • European marine technologies and research infrastructure
  • Deep sea and coastal environments
  • Integrating marine and maritime research

Good marks for maritime transport

Janez Poto─Źnik © Peter Gutierrez
Janez Poto─Źnik
© Peter Gutierrez

Iver Iversen of Norway's Wilhelmsen Shipping reminded the participants that maritime navigation is still the 'greenest' form of transport. "The shipbuilding industry is facing a lot of pressure these days," he said. "We have new environmental regulations regarding emissions and our costs continue to rise. Meanwhile the design of new ships is a risky business, but we can still make improvements and we will do so."

Iversen outlined a number of improvements already being undertaken in his sector. "We can build better ships, and we can save fuel with today's ships through better route planning and improved port operations. Our industry wants to play its part, but we also need to have an even playing field, and that means working within an international framework where everyone observes the same rules."

 

More conclusions from EUROMARES 2010:

  • The research on renewable marine energy represents a great opportunity, as much economic as environmental;
  • Research on fisheries and aquaculture is evolving rapidly towards a more ecosystems-based approach.
  • The development of integrated marine research will serve as the basis of the convergence between the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Directive Framework on Marine Strategy.
  • Marine biotechnologies have an enormous potential to deliver new drugs, alternative fuels, food sources and marine genetic resources of great social, economic and environmental value, all of which makes vital the conservation of marine resources.
  • Key marine and maritime infrastructure is greatly enhancing our knowledge of the sea. New robots are exploring marine depths while remote sensors evaluate qualities and characteristics of the aquatic environment in real time, allowing us to better understand the effects of human activities.
  • EU-level marine and maritime policies and initiatives constitute an important framework for research, offering long-term support, vital coordination and co-operation with third party countries.

 

Speaking at the closing session, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said, "In order to move forward, we need knowledge. As policy makers we need the input of scientists, experts and stakeholders, and that is why this meeting has been so important."

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