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European Commission

Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

A European Vision for the sustainable management of the Oceans

Conference "The High Seas, our Future"/Paris

11 April 2013

President Delevoye, Minister Cuvillier, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin my intervention by thanking you for having invited me here today.

I welcome your initiative as well as the launching today of the "Paris Appeal for the High Seas". This is very timely

There is a real sense of urgency regarding the maritime domain. The UN conference on Rio + 20 has testified to this. The world Community just cannot sit idly by anymore.

We know that oceans and seas are sources of wealth and precious resources. But we also know that they are under strong pressure and that they are facing serious risks.

Maritime policy is high on international agenda. It is also high on the European agenda. We need to work together. Today's event can carry a powerful message of commitment and resolve to a broader audience here in Paris and beyond.

I would like to make three points.

First, we need a better understanding of our Oceans and Seas.

The Oceans and Seas are still largely unknown. At the EU we have been engaging the marine and maritime research community. We are working closely with those Member States that have extensive knowledge and expertise on the matter such as France and others. We need to reinforce this dialogue.

The EU is already doing a lot. In the 7th Framework Programme €350 million have been spent between 2007 and 2010 to fund 640 marine and maritime related research projects which have contributed greatly to increase our knowledge of ocean ecosystems. This must be continued. And I am proposing, together with my fellow Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, to enhance the EU support to Marine and Maritime Research in the future EU budget through Horizon 2020 the new financial instrument for Innovation and Research.

I have also taken the initiative to create a new seamless multi-resolution digital seabed map of European waters. By 2020, topography, geology, habitats and ecosystems will be covered. It will be accompanied by access to observations and information of physical, chemical and biological state of the water column and by oceanographic forecasts.

In the meantime, we are moving forward with the integration of the EU Maritime Surveillance. This initiative aims at offering a situational awareness of all activities at sea impacting on maritime safety and security, border control, marine environment, fisheries control and trade.

Second, we need more effective policy responses.

Oceans and Seas are complex systems. There are many functions that we need to look into. Moreover to deal with them remains a challenge.

At EU level, the Integrated Maritime Policy is aiming to bring together and coordinate a large number of policy areas such as energy, transport, environment, fisheries. Several sea basin strategies, including the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Baltic, the Adriatic and Ionian, have been adopted to better address the maritime specificities of these regions and foster sustainable development coming from seas and oceans.

In this context, the recently adopted European Commission's Blue Growth strategy aims precisely at letting Europe tap the growth potential stemming from ocean renewable energy or mining and blue biotechnologies. It comes along with the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which aims to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe.

Healthy oceans mean healthy marine ecosystems. To that end we need a Fisheries Policy that will meet the challenge of "silent" seas and oceans devoid of marine life and fish. Through the Reform of the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy that I have proposed, we are basing it on better science; we are making discards a thing of the past. We are at the endgame of the long and complex co-decision process in the European Union on this ambitious Reform and I want to see it through.

As regards the international dimension of Fisheries, I am working with Member States, third countries, stakeholders and civil society to promote compliance with international law, stop the trade of illegal caught fish, identify the vessels involved in Illegal fisheries and impose sanctions on operators.

Third, we need a strengthened international cooperation.

Ocean policy and Fisheries management are global challenges and they require a global response. We need to work closely with our international partners. I have reached out to the US, Canada, Russia, Norway and now I will be focusing on China and Asia in general as well as the pacific. The EU is strongly committed to maintain maritime multilateralism.

In this sense, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was a turning point in ocean governance. We strongly believe in it as an important factor for global stability, peace and sustainable development. That is why we want to see all members' states of the United Nations ratifying this Convention.

I would like to focus on one thing that the Convention couldn't do back in the eighties. This is providing for the conservation of marine genetic resources. Back then, they were still largely unknown.

Today, the number of new products developed from marine species through biotechnology grows by 4% every year. We use these products in the domains of pharmacology, food, cosmetics, agriculture, aquaculture and even biofuel production. We touch upon rare organisms in fragile ecosystems, yet as we are aware, mitigation measures remain uncoordinated.

A multilateral agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is clearly needed here. Biodiversity protection has to be an overarching objective of the international community.

The EU therefore supports a new implementing agreement of UNCLOS which would address both the conservation and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. It should address the issues of marine protected areas and environmental impact assessments. It should also settle the question of access rights to marine genetic resources in those areas and if possible the question of how to share the benefits deriving from them.

This is a serious governance gap to be tackled by the international Community. Based on the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference, which set the deadline for a final decision on the development of such an international instrument by the end of next year, we should make the right move and go for it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are committed to protecting the Oceans. Sustainability is a key word here. Oceans can deliver smart, green and sustainable growth.

We need to make sure that resources are harvested rationally and fairly. We are not there yet. It is now time to take decisive action and move forward.

Thank you for your attention.

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