EU ministers have signed a Declaration today on a Marine and Maritime Agenda for growth and jobs. Seas at Risk and 18 other environmental NGOs are concerned that such plans will come at the expense of the marine environment and have called on ministers to respect the ‘limits to blue growth’.

EU ministers have signed a Declaration today on a Marine and Maritime Agenda for growth and jobs. Seas at Risk and 18 other environmental NGOs are concerned that such plans will come at the expense of the marine environment and have called on ministers to respect the ‘limits to blue growth’.

The ‘Limassol Declaration’, an initiative of the Cyprus Presidency, sets out an agenda for blue economic growth and employment as lined out in the recent Blue Growth Communication of the European Commission. It is expected that the declaration will subsequently be adopted by the General Affairs Council and the European Council in December 2012.

The Declaration was presented at a special ceremony attended by: the President of the European Commission, Mr. Barroso; the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs. Maria Damanaki; EU Ministers responsible for maritime affairs; and Members of the European Parliament.

According to Monica Verbeek, Executive Director of Seas At Risk, the Declaration is well intended but raises concerns: “The Declaration seems very much inspired by the imperative of constant growth – but we need sustainable economic activities that meet the needs of current and future generations, rather than growth for the sake of growth. Already our seas and oceans are stretched to their limits by overfishing and pollution, and climate change is exacerbating this.”

“Our fear is that large amounts of EU funding are going to be used to boost not only the polluting conventional maritime industries – such as shipping and oil drilling - but also younger industries - such as aquaculture and marine mineral mining - of which the impacts are as yet highly uncertain,” she added.

While the Declaration recognises marine ecosystems and their protection as ‘an important element for sustainable development’, environmental NGOs argue that healthy marine ecosystems should be central to the development of a sustainable economic development, rather than an additional consideration. This is one of the key points of a joint position paper sent to European ministers ahead of the meeting by Seas At Risk and 18 other NGOs.

In addition, the groups emphasise that a blue economy should not be based on the exploitation of non-renewable marine resources, as has been the case with many terrestrial resources. The paper also urges ministers to ensure that technology and efficiency gains are not outstripped by growth.

 
 
 

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