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EUROCEAN 2007. EU marine policy must be science based, says Borg

UK - It's two years ago that the European Commission called for an all-embracing EU maritime policy, supported by excellence in marine scientific research and technology.

Speaking at Eurocean 2007 Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland, Dr. Joe Borg, European Commissioner responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said marine research and technology would allow Europe to deliver it's goal of a a thriving maritime economy that utilised the full potential of sea-based activities in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Dr Borg said that following the launch of the Green Paper last June, the European Comission was now even more convinced that marine science and technology must be the foundation on which to build an effective EU maritime policy.

"Our expectations are high; so are the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and we need the support of strong European marine science and technology," he said Dr Borg.

Sea related human activities and climate change are threatening marine ecosystems - to the point that the very balance of the oceanic system is being seriously affected. "The situation is endangering the source of this crucial contribution to our wealth and welfare and we must deal with the cumulative impact of our activities rather than the individual impact of each seperate activity," said Dr Borg, adding that current governenace strategies may have to change.

"We strongly believe that science and technology hold the key and can allow us to reconcile the economic growth generated by sea-based activities with environmental sustainability. If we want to pursue the sustainable development of sea-based activities, we need to develop a sophisticated understanding of the interaction between different human activities and natural ecosystems, as well as of their combined effects," he added.

He said that Europe needed to find ways to develop its sea-based activities without provoking irreversible damage to ecosystems. Cross-sectoral science and better coordinated research efforts across member states would be vitally important in sustaining existing marine and maritime activities and would also help harness the massive untapped potential the sea offers.

"Oceans represent the last under-explored domain on Earth, and offer huge unexploited potential in areas like aquaculture, blue biotechnology, renewable energy resources, non renewable fuels and mineral resources," said Dr Borg.

He said that improving the links between science and end-users would considerably enhance the industrial outcome of biotechnology for application in areas like food, health, energy and industrial materials. Biotechnology analysts are already predicting that more than 50 per cent of all industrial production will have a biotechnology component in the future, and the market will demand development. "We can and we must tackle the challenge of turning such opportunities into successes," said Dr Borg.

Questions

Tackling the challenges posed by climate change is also a source of considerable opportunities. But he questioned if science could provide industry, and the service sector, with effective early warning signals that allowed adjustment to changing circumstances. "What is the possible impact that climate change will have on ecosystems, existing or new fisheries, species distribution, or aquaculture opportunities?" he asked.

Dr Borg said that by cooperating with industry, and by creating and sharing knowledge, the scientific community can help turn science into technology and bring eco-friendly business concepts to the global market. "In the challenge of understanding, predicting, mitigating and adapting to climate change lies an opportunity for the development of valuable new economic activities," he added.

The EU is an international leader in climate research using advanced mapping techniques to project possible scenarios and impacts for Europe's regions. Dr Borg said that it needed to build on this knowledge, to analyse the consequences, and even more importantly, to link them to the development of new solutions. "Adaptation is an unavoidable complement to mitigation action. After all, a certain degree of climate change will be inevitable, even if global mitigation efforts over the coming decades prove successful," he said. 

Europe must invest  in science and there are clear signs that this is happening. However, there is also a weighty responsibility on both policy makers and the scientific community to produce the necessary results, said Dr Borg.

Important stakeholders had already contributed to consulations as as a result of the Green Paper and thier views have confirmed the need for a strategy to identify and plan for the tasks ahead.

Many key stakeholders supported issues such as:

  • The need for cross-thematic integration of marine and maritime research;

  • The need for strengthened cooperation and synergy between member states' research efforts;

  • The importance of a detailed identification of marine research infrastructure needs and in particular a closer integration of marine data;

  • More integrated cooperation and networking in the scientific community to provide a better articulation between research, policy-making, industry and society in general.

Dr Borg said that feedback on initial ideas had been positive and suggestions had been made regarding the legal framework for and the financing of marine data collection and distribution schemes. Likewise the EU Atlas of the Seas has been welcomed as a potential flagship project to highlight European technology – for instance in seabed surveying – as well as providing a valuable tool for policy planning and research.

Positive feedback

Dr Borg commended the efforts already being made by marine research, but urged the scientific community to speak with one voice and send clear messages to policy makers, and society, on matters of significant political importance.

The interface between science and industry was vitally important and although Europe produces almost one third of the world's scientific knowledge, it is not very successful in converting science into commercial innovation and practice.

"We need to integrate science and technology to the benefit of both. Marine environmental technology in particular offers huge opportunities both to industry and to the scientific community," said Dr Borg. A good example was the Waterborne Technological Platform is an example and he welcomed the initiative taken by the aquaculture industry and scientific community to set up a European Aquaculture Technological Platform. "If conditions are met and it is launched, it would represent a considerable step forward for the European aquaculture industry," he said.

Summing up, Dr Borg said that the European Union had played a major role in supporting marine and maritime research during the past 20 years. Science had made considerable progress in developing a marine European Research Area and as a result the scientific community was in a very competitive position in which to deliver knowledge to stakeholders and policy makers.

However, with the launch of the maritime policy, the EU must now take a qualitative step forward in strengthening its marine research area and linking it to the maritime research and technology community.

"A strong EU strategy for marine research will give us the basis to take this forward and deliver the science and research foundation for the future EU maritime policy," said Dr Borg. Europe and it's oceans faced huge challenges, but solutions were in its grasp. There were real opportunities for success and prosperity ahead of an integrated approach was implemented.

To read Dr Borg's opening addrees in full click here

the Fish Site Editor

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