Minister Akhannouch, Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here with you today – and my thanks to Morocco for organising this Oceans Day side event dedicated to Africa.

Some of you may remember my words at last year's Oceans Day in Paris, when I spoke about the many wonderful opportunities the "blue" ocean economy has to offer. Today, I want to focus on sustainable blue growth in Africa.  And I want to share with you four examples of how the European Union is supporting it. For both Africa and the European Union, using our oceans in sustainable ways is a strategic priority.

We know that oceans hold the answers to our future: whether it's tackling climate change, fighting poverty through new economic opportunity or providing healthy food for up to 9 billion people in 2050. Not to mention the great potential of our oceans for boosting growth, jobs and innovation. The OECD estimates that oceans add 1.3 trillion euros of value to the world economy. By 2030, this could more than double. Africa is in a prime position to benefit from that blue growth. Pan-African fish trade is worth 20 billion euros. Fisheries and aquaculture provide jobs for 12 million people, one third of them women.

But a successful blue economy depends on a key condition: keeping our oceans healthy. And today, our oceans are under stress. Over-fishing, climate change, acidification, pollution and declining biodiversity are all taking their toll. We cannot afford to erode the growth base of our blue economy. We must reverse those trends.

Fortunately, momentum is growing. The entry into force of the historic Paris Agreement and the adoption of the UN SDGs show international commitment.  And just last month, I had the privilege to represent the EU at the African Union's maritime security summit in Lome, Togo. I congratulated African leaders for the adoption of the Lome Charter, with a chapter dedicated to the development of the blue economy. This chapter builds on the objective set out in the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy, to "foster increased wealth creation from Africa's oceans and seas by developing a sustainable thriving blue economy in a secure and environmentally sustainable manner." The European Union fully supports this objective. And we are working with our African partners to help them reach it. Let me tell you how;

First, the European Union is heading up global efforts to manage our seas and oceans more responsibly. Two days ago, I launched a major initiative for better international ocean governance. A to-do list of 50 actions to make the oceans safer, cleaner, more secure and more sustainable managed. Actions include closing legal gaps, better enforcing the rules that we already have and improving coordination between the different bodies responsible for the oceans. These will help the global community to secure our oceans, and to use their resources sustainably. It will strengthen the capacity of African states to control and harvest their marine resources, to plan for economic activities in the oceans and coastal zones, and to develop a sustainable blue economy.

Second, the European Union is making the world's waters safer and more secure. Whether it's fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia, combating smuggling and trafficking in the Mediterranean, or supporting African-led action in the Gulf of Guinea – we are at your side. We understand that Africa's blue economy cannot grow if its waters are not secure. Whatever the cost of action – the cost of inaction is far higher. The Lomé Charter is proof of Africa's willingness to act. And the European Union will continue to support you – both with action at sea and financially. We have 140 million euros worth of projects in support of the maritime domain in Africa.

Third, we want to axe harmful fisheries subsidies. Sustainable Development Goal 14 sets an unambiguous target: governments should ban subsidies that contribute to unsustainable fishing. That is why the European Union is proposing to restart WTO negotiations. We are putting forward rules directed at the two most damaging types of subsidies: those that increase the capacity of fleets to catch fish, and those for fishermen who engage in illegal fishing activities. To be clear: taking decisive action does not mean ignoring the needs of fishing communities in least developed and developing countries. Subsistence fishing needs to be protected. And developing countries must be allowed to build up their fleets – as long as this does not damage our oceans' health. So the European Union's proposal includes flexibility for developing countries, while safeguarding sustainable fisheries globally. And we call on other WTO members to join us. Let's start negotiations immediately, in order to reach an agreement at the next WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017.

Fourth, and finally, the European Union will continue to pursue Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements – SFPAs – with countries in Africa and beyond.14 such agreements, worth up to 135 million euros a year to our African partners, have entered into force to date. They support sustainable fisheries, surveillance and control, science and research, and international cooperation. As such, they have become a benchmark for good fisheries governance. I am glad to see representatives of many of our partner countries here today. They will be able to confirm that SFPAs contribute to the development of the local fisheries sector. They lift people out of poverty. They improve food security for some of the world's populations most at risk. And they help fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a global problem to the scale of 23 billion dollars. In West Africa alone IUU fishing accounts for yearly losses of around 1.3 billion dollars.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Oceans Day in Paris showed that it was time for change. Now, in Marrakech, it is time for action.  I see a clear momentum gaining pace at international level. And I am happy to see that Africa is joining in. To keep that momentum going, the European Union will host the fourth edition of the Our Ocean Conference on 5-6 October in Malta next year. I would like to see more focus on Africa – so I hope to see many of you there!

I encourage you all to build on this momentum. Let's preserve our marine resources. Let's improve ocean governance and fight ocean crime. In short, let's create the conditions for sustainable blue growth. In Africa and beyond.

 

 

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