EMD offers a unique forum for Europe's maritime community to get together and join in the efforts for healthy and thriving seas. It complements EU policies for the protection and sustainable use of the oceans – from the push to improve international ocean governance and maritime spatial planning, to the development of a circular economy policy and a dedicated plastics strategy.
This year's EMD introduced corporate responsibility as a pivotal dimension of ocean sustainability. Commissioner Vella encouraged business leaders attending EMD2017 to look ahead to the Our Ocean Conference (Malta, 5-6 October) and put forward their own commitments for the protection of the oceans and a greener value chain.
EMD2017 featured inspirational speeches including by Barbara Jackson (CEO, Race for the Baltic), who underlined the importance of social innovation to deliver the transformational change required to meet sustainability challenges, and Alan AtKisson (author, speaker and senior advisor), who highlighted the leading role of Europe in developing a sustainable blue economy.
The conference also offered a leadership exchange, a practitioner's exchange on sea-basin strategies, and a project launch for the 2016 European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Blue Growth call, as well as several workshops and project pitches around four key topics: Innovation & Growth, People & Skills, Safety & Security, and Sustainability & Governance. Many participants pointed out the need to integrate the blue economy into the wider EU policy and funding architecture as a key driver of the EU's future prosperity.
But to develop the full potential of Blue Growth, increased support for innovation is needed. This can be achieved by improving public awareness and ownership of how our seas are managed via ocean literacy, especially for the younger generations; by promoting more integration across sectors, geographical areas and actors; by improving data and information-sharing; by developing the skills and competences required to boost the maritime sector.
Another driver of innovation and positive change is consumer demand. Attendees noted that consumer pressure is a more positive incentive for shifts in the industry. An EU study on consumer habits regarding fisheries and aquaculture products recently provided interesting insights into how the European market, the world's biggest market for seafood, could be expanded and diversified.
Flanking the conference, EMD2017 hosted a maritime exhibition as well as matchmaking meetings for stakeholders, while the Poole Maritime Festival ensured the engagement of the general public. Almost 30 public events were organised across the EU to celebrate the 10th anniversary of EMD.
With dozens of events and hundreds of participants, EMD2017 confirmed the enthusiasm and passion of people in the maritime sector to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our seas and all those who depend on them.
See you at EMD2018 in Burgas, Bulgaria!