Promoting sustainable blue growth for future generations

17 Sep 2015
Norwegian Fisheries Minister, Elisabeth Aspaker, and European Commissioner, Karmenu Vella. © European Union

Norwegian Fisheries Minister, Elisabeth Aspaker, and European Commissioner, Karmenu Vella. © European Union

In an exclusive article for World Fishing & Aquaculture, European Commissioner, Karmenu Vella and Norwegian Fisheries Minister, Elisabeth Aspaker, discuss the importance of blue growth and ocean governance. Mr Vella is meeting with Ms Aspaker in Norway today to further strengthen the strategic fisheries relations between EU and Norway.

It is hard not to marvel at the wealth of our seas – a fascinating treasure trove of discoveries and resources. Expanding and emerging marine sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, marine biotechnology, offshore wind and ocean energy will contribute to address the growing demand for food, energy and medicine and can significantly boost jobs and economic growth.

The seas can deliver nutritious food and aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors. The last years have shown that the trend of falling world catches can be turned and ending overfishing and allowing depleted fish stocks to recover can contribute to increased food supply. In addition, reducing food losses in production as well as the post-harvest phases including in retail and by the consumers can contribute substantially. Joint effort addressing this magnitude of opportunities has the potential to increase world food supply of seafood by 50%.

The seas can deliver medicine. Scientists wondered why certain marine sponges caused a decline in nearby species and found a substance that inhibited breast cancer. Scientists here in Tromsø have made promising discoveries in the Barents Sea which can possibly be used in the combat against the evolution of antibiotic resistance. More discoveries are waiting to happen.

The seas can deliver energy. A third of global oil production is now offshore and over a third of this is pumped from below deep water – up from zero 15 years ago. Renewable energy too is moving offshore: 13% of new wind turbine capacity was installed offshore in 2014. Engineers along the Atlantic coast are testing devices that can extract power from the waves. Cables are being laid on the seafloor to bring the electricity ashore. And all this is creating new jobs.

In short, our seas are a huge economic asset. Today, the EU's maritime economy employs around five million people and contributes with around €550bn to our wealth. From Norway approximately 37 million seafood meals are exported every day. And the marine industry is a global, innovative and forward-looking industry.

Responsibility
Yet with great potential comes responsibility. We owe it those who come after us to treat this wealth with care and to ensure that it survives for future generations. The treasure trove we find today should not be carelessly plundered. Instead, sustainability must be a guiding principle when developing aquaculture, fisheries and maritime policy in order to preserve the ecosystems of our seas and oceans and the invaluable services they provide.

Both Norway and the EU subscribe to the need to promote blue growth – to create maritime jobs that offer opportunities to our coastal communities. Importantly, both Norway and the EU agree that such blue growth must be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

While important developments are already underway in the EU and Norway, bringing real added value also requires us to look beyond our shared continent and take action to improve ocean governance at a global scale.

Ocean governance is a shared challenge and responsibility that calls for global principles, as well as regional and local implementation. Governments around the world have an important role in setting an example, in providing a springboard for economic growth and in ensuring the sustainable development of our marine sectors.

The EU and Norway are committed to promoting these principles in this crucial year. As we move towards the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in September and the Climate Change Conference in December we need to call on all international actors to make that same commitment.

If we care for the Ocean, the Ocean will care for us.

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