EC announces ocean governance consultation
The European Commission (EC) has today (4 June) launched a public consultation to collect views on how the European Union (EU) could help achieve better international governance of oceans and seas.
The consultation comes in response to the growing use of marine resources across the world, as well as increasing instances of illegal fishing, uncontrolled seabed mining, and marine litter, which ‘need to be addressed through global cooperation’.
EU statistics suggest the marine economy, otherwise known as the ‘blue economy’, accounts for five per cent of the EU’s GDP and provides nearly five million jobs in Europe alone, with ‘a high potential for further growth’. For example, conservation charity WWF estimates the worldwide value of ocean ‘gross marine product’ to be $24 trillion (£16 trillion).
This growth, however, presents a number of ‘challenges’ regarding the responsible use of marine environments. According to the EC’s ‘Consultation on International Ocean Governance’, 60 per cent of the oceans are outside the borders of national jurisdiction and are ‘by definition a shared resource’.
An international framework has developed as a result, setting out ‘rules and institutions that strive to organise the way in which humans use the oceans, both within national jurisdictions and in areas beyond national jurisdiction’.
However, the consultation document reads: ‘A significant number of global actors are making the case that the current ocean governance framework is not effective enough in ensuring the sustainable use of oceans and their resources for the future.’
The online public consultation, therefore, asks for input from all stakeholders, as well as international governmental and non-governmental organisations, the research community, academics and civil society, on how the EU could contribute to achieving better international ocean governance ‘to the benefit of sustainable blue growth’.
Participants are asked whether they believe the ‘general problem’ is that ‘the current framework is not effective enough in ensuring the sustainable management of oceans and their resources’.
Respondents are also asked to share their thoughts on the origins of the problem (i.e. gaps in the existing international ocean governance framework; inefficient use and implementation of the existing framework; or a lack of knowledge about the oceans) and what specific problems the EC should seek to tackle.
The consultation period will run until 15 September 2015, after which the EC will consider the results in developing a ‘more coherent, comprehensive and effective EU policy on improving the international ocean governance framework’.
Framework needed to help traditional and emerging marine sectors
Announcing the consultation at the World Ocean Summit in Portugal as part of Green Week 2015 yesterday (3 June), Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “If our oceans are not healthy, our economy falls ill. Global maritime challenges require global solutions. I am committed to work intensively to define Europe's role in international ocean governance, for a sustainable blue economy and blue growth.”
He added: “The opportunities are there: from traditional sectors like tourism or fishing to emerging ones like seabed mining or ocean energy, seas and oceans could be the trump card this economy needs right now.
“But we must be careful and not let the stress on resources become too intense, or let the race for control of resources get the better of us.
“I want to understand if the current framework of European and international rules, processes and institutions matches the challenges we face. So I’m casting a wide net and asking people… the direction [ocean governance] should take, the focus it should have, the responsibilities it carries.
“The sea is a big part of our natural capital. A healthy one produces more food, more jobs and more wealth.
“Today more than ever, environmental action is an investment that makes sense.”
Ocean plastics recovery system example of marine responsibility
An example of new technology being used to help the cleaning of marine environments was unveiled earlier this week, when it was announced that the ‘world’s first’ ocean clean-up system will be established in the Korea Strait in the second half of 2016.
The Ocean Cleanup project will place a 2,000-metre long floating plastic litter capture system off the coast of Tsushima Island.
Booms hanging from the system will reportedly capture 80 per cent of plastic waste floating within three metres of the ocean’s surface, while allowing animal life to pass unhindered.
Tests on the Tsushima will also evaluate whether it is viable to use the plastic collected as an alternative energy source.
The project is the first step in what The Ocean Cleanup hopes will be an expanding solution to the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, which the project’s 20-year-old CEO Boyan Slat says houses approximately 140,000 tonnes of plastic.
Find out more about the European Commission’s public consultation into International Ocean Governance or The Ocean Cleanup’s Tshushina Island project.