EEB, Seas At Risk and their Greek member organisations - MedSoS, Elliniki Etairia, and Ecocity - co-organised a conference in Athens on “Could Blue Growth turn into Green?” The conference addressed the link between Blue Growth and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD.

In her key note speech, Seas At Risk Executive Director Monica Verbeek expressed her concern about the absence of this link both in terms of objectives and of governance, leading to the failure to impose much needed environmental limits to Blue Growth.

A representative of the Commission (DG Mare) elaborated on the EU Blue Growth agenda for economic growth and employment in the maritime sector, and noted that the MSFD as the “environmental pillar” should ensure that environmental sustainability will be addressed as well. He highlighted the selected sectors - renewable energy, blue biotechnology, coastal and maritime tourism, aquaculture and seabed mining - for which action plans, including financing, are being developed.

Boosting deep sea mining has already been heavily criticised by Seas At Risk and other environmental NGOs, and the Commission representative noted that they do not intend to repeat the mistakes made in land based mining by ensuring adherence to sustainability criteria, yet it was not clear how that would take shape.

Another Commission representative (DG Environment) reported on the poor implementation of the MSFD to date by Member States. Natalia Roumelioti of MedSoS highlighted the poor transparency and lack of possibilities for meaningful stakeholder involvement as exhibited in the case of Greece’s implementation of the MSFD.

The Commission presentations underlined the relevance of the message of Seas At Risk Executive Director Monica Verbeek, who pointed out that the current very low ambition of the Member States in the implementation of the MSFD will make it impossible to achieve good environmental status by 2020. And without healthy seas one cannot build a sound economy. The Blue Growth agenda relies too much on technology and innovation to increase efficiency and decrease environmental impacts. However, growth often outstrips efficiency gains with increasing environmental pressures as a result. Instead of pursuing a limitless growth paradigm, we need to shift our economies and our values to more sustainable ways of living, producing and consuming. We need to address, for example, the global wastage of 40% of food, rather than trying to satisfy ever-growing EU fish consumption through more aquaculture.

The conference also addressed the environmental aspects of sustainable shipping and the environmental management of (Greek) ports, coastal tourism, (the lack of) management of Greek Marine Protected Areas for monk seals, sustainable energy, fisheries, and the use of discarded species in aquaculture. It was attended by scientists and representatives of the Commission, of the Greek Ministry of Environment and of NGOs.

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