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Joe Borg

Member of the Commission Responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Speaking points for press conference on launch of Google Ocean

Press conference on launch of Google Ocean
Brussels, Residence Palace, 2 February 2009

Increasing awareness of the seas and knowledge of the oceans is a central objective of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

In this respect, Google Ocean is a tool which is in line with our own objectives of making marine knowledge more accessible to the interested or concerned citizen as well as other stakeholders. I would therefore like to express my thanks and gratitude to Google.

The simple fact is that we still know very little about the oceans. Therefore, we welcome all the tools that can assist us in understanding better our planet.

We appreciate the technical challenges and efforts involved in developing Google Ocean. I am certain, from what I have seen, that all of us will be able to understand and appreciate more the wonderful yet fragile marine world that surrounds us.

Exploration of the seas is no longer only the remit of seafarers. In a way, we have all become armchair explorers since now we can sail and travel far and beyond from within our homes, offices or classrooms.

Today we are all better aware of the state of our oceans and seas.

In order to respond to the challenges – and opportunities – that our seas provide us with, the European Union has set forward a new way of policy making through the Integrated Maritime Policy.

On its part, the European Commission is therefore setting up a Network to process fragmented data on seabed geology, living species and chemical pollution in order to build up complete sea-basin pictures. This is being done through a European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODNET). We are confident that this will help us meet the commitments set out in the Marine Strategy in order to achieve good environmental status, help business and authorities plan the routes of undersea pipelines, or show where our coastlines are vulnerable to a rising sea, amongst others.

Moreover, later on this year, the European Commission will publish a prototype "European Atlas of the Seas". Our aim is to raise awareness of Europe's maritime heritage, of economic opportunities existing in sea-related activities, and the fragility of our marine environment.

EMODNET and the European Atlas of the Seas are both complementary projects to Google Ocean.

We understand that Google Ocean will be adopting the open standards that allow us to mix and match the different layers of marine knowledge that we will be producing. That way, our stakeholders can use your window on the oceans to overlay our geological maps with shipping lanes, historic wrecks or protected areas in order to better understand, safeguard as well as make better use of the ocean's resources.

Allow me here to list a number of other actions that, within the context of the Integrated Maritime Policy, have been undertaken, in a relatively very short period of time, since the launch of our Integrated Maritime Policy:

  • the Community's new strategy to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - in short, the fight against pirate fishing;
  • the proposed new fisheries Control Regulation that will modernise systems for inspection, monitoring control, surveillance and enforcement;
  • also in the context of fisheries, this week we will be unveiling a plan for the protection of sharks – whose long reproductive cycle renders them particularly vulnerable to overfishing;
  • the adoption of a Roadmap on Maritime Spatial Planning, which is aimed at coordinating the competing claims by the various sectors and activities on the maritime space;
  • we also adopted the first ever European marine and maritime research strategy, thanks to which significant funds were invested in sea-related research;
  • through the adoption of "The Marine Strategy Framework Directive", we set out targets of good environmental status for Europe's marine waters by 2020;
  • the European Community also supports some outstanding research on the oceans, such as the HERMES project, which has led to major advances in our understanding of deep sea ecosystems.

We aim to continue working closely with stakeholders in order to advance the agenda and needs of a Maritime Europe. Such issues will be at the fore during the annual European Maritime Day celebrations, that will be held in Rome and across Europe, this year on 20 May.

In concluding, I would like again to thank all those involved in developing Google Ocean. The health of our seas is our common goal and our shared commitment.

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