By Magdalena A K Muir, Advisory Board Member, Climate and Global Governance, EUCC
European Commission recently adopted a landmark political document: a Joint Communication on “International ocean governance: an agenda for the future of our oceans.” This is a joint initiative by Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission in charge of External Relations, and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, Fisheries, and the Environment – in association with Jyrkki Katainen, Vice-President of the Commission in charge of Growth and Jobs.
This Communication is the first EU-level initiative that addresses the way in which the world’s oceans are managed and governed. It focuses on what the EU can do to ensure oceans that are safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed and includes a list of 50 actions at EU and international level. The hope is that it will give impetus to stronger, more coherent and more effective ocean management at the global scale. The Communication builds on a long and intense consultation process with stakeholder in the European Union and around the world, including the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) who provided comments.
The Joint Communication is an integral part of the EU’s response to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 ‘to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’. The Joint Communication sets out 14 sets of actions in 3 priority areas: 1) Improving the international ocean governance framework; 2) Reducing human pressure on the oceans and creating the conditions for a sustainable blue economy3) Strengthening international ocean research and data. More detail is found in the Communication for each area.
1. Improving international ocean governance framework: Existing ocean rules need to be further developed and better enforced, for example to address areas beyond national jurisdiction or implement internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, such as creating the 10% target for Marine Protected Areas by 2020. The EU will cooperate with international partners to ensure implementation and will host in October 2017 the “Our Oceans” conference to build on these commitments. By 2018 the Commission will also produce guidance on the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in areas under national jurisdiction.
On the basis of its Maritime Security Strategy, the European Union will work with partner countries to reduce maritime security threats and risks, such as piracy, trafficking in human beings, arms and narcotics, while taking full advantage of the capacity of the new European Border and Coastguard Agency, the EU Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA). Moreover,the EU is strongly engaged with its Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. EUNAVFOR Atalanta is active in countering piracy in front of the coast of Somalia, while EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia is working towards disrupting smugglers and traffickers’ networks and has saved more than 28.000 lives up to date in the Southern Central Mediterranean.
2. Reducing human pressure on the oceans and creating the conditions for a sustainable blue economy: With the Paris Agreement having entered into force, the Commission will work to strengthen ocean-related action to implement national and international commitments, starting at Oceans Day at COP22 in Marrakech on 12 November 2016. As oceans absorb 25% of CO2 generated, they are important climate regulators. If no action is taken to limit ocean warming and acidification, oceans risk deregulating the climate.
Combatting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) is a priority for the EU. At least 15% of catches worldwide, worth €8-19 billion a year, are illegal. As a leader in the fight against IUU fishing, the EU will promote multilateral action and strengthen the role of Interpol in fighting IUU fishing. The Commission will launch a pilot project to monitor illegal fishing worldwide using satellite communications. Marine litter is another major threat to oceans. Under the “Circular Economy Action Plan”, the EU will propose by 2017 a strategy on plastics, which will contribute to reducing marine litter by at least 30% by 2020. The Commission will work towards international guidelines on Maritime Spatial Planning by 2025 and help expand Marine Protected Areas worldwide with funding under Horizon 2020 and LIFE programmes.
3. Strengthening international ocean research and data: An estimated 90% of the oceans’ seabed remains unchartered. Less than 3% is used for economic activity. More understanding and sound scientific knowledge is essential to sustainably manage ocean resources and reduce human pressure. The EU’s Blue Data Network, the European Marine Observation and Data Network, provides data from over 100 marine research bodies and is accessible to all. The Commission will propose how to develop this database into a worldwide marine data network.
Next steps: The proposed actions will now be discussed with the EU Member States in the Council and the European Parliament.
The full text of the communication, a list of action and a fact sheet is found on the following DG Mare website http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/policy/ocean-governance_en and with the Communication available here at http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/sites/maritimeaffairs/files/join-2016-49_en.p
Official EU documents
- Joint communication: International ocean governance agenda for the future of our oceans (JOIN(2016) 49
- Synopsis of the outcome of the consultation on international ocean governance (SWD(2016) 352
- Developing the international dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy of the European Union (COM(2009)536)
- Contribution of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) to the implementation of existing obligations, commitments and initiatives of the Member States or the EU at EU or international level in the sphere of environmental protection in marine waters (COM/2012/0662)