The initiative report by MEP Maria do Céu Patrão Neves on “Marine Knowledge 2020: Seabed mapping for promoting sustainable fisheries”, which was approved in the Plenary Session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the 23rd October, concerns the Green Paper presented in 2012 by the European Commission on “Marine Knowledge 2020: from seabed mapping to ocean forecasting” aiming at increasing and improving the available knowledge on the marine environment. In fact, marine knowledge is fundamental for promoting, developing and expanding the “Blue Growth” that constitutes the maritime dimension of the strategy “Europe 2020”, by integrating knowledge and technological innovation, sustainable use of resources, competitiveness and job creation, towards a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
This initiative by the European Commission on “Marine Knowledge 2020” includes a project to prepare a multi-resolution digital map of the seabed in European waters by 2020, comprising multidisciplinary data that will be available for the benefit of multiple users and stakeholders, including the public and private sectors and the civil society. By providing access to portals with a vast content of information about the sea and human activities that occur in the marine environment, this initiative will help maximising the potential of human, logistic and financial resources.
Fishing is an ancestral human activity that takes place in the marine environment, but recently has been under an intense and unjustified attack by some groups claiming that fisheries are environmentally unsustainable. Therefore, the initiative report by MEP Patrão Neves aimed at showing that fisheries have their own place and role within the “Blue Economy”, contributing with valuable information for the initiative “Marine Knowledge 2020” and also benefiting from instruments to promote sustainability that might result from this important project.
In her report, MEP Patrão Neves emphasised the importance of getting more, better and broader knowledge about the sea and taking full advantage of its enormous potential for promoting development, innovation and job creation in the marine and maritime sectors, always fulfilling the compromise of assuring the sustainability of the oceans and ultimately contributing to overcome the widespread and generalised crisis that affects Europe.
The report stressed the relevance and usefulness of making available the mapping of the spatial distribution of the fishing fleet, fishing effort, composition and volume of catches, which would allow interested users to access information about the areas subject to greater fishing intensity, species caught and volume of the catches in certain areas, among other pertinent parameters. Moreover, the report also noted the interest of displaying separate mapping of fisheries-related data depending on the type of fishing activity, namely small-scale fisheries, artisanal fisheries and industrial fisheries, which would provide a much more complete and realistic view of the diversity of the fishing activity in European waters, confirming that fisheries with different characteristics should be treated differently and managed through regulations adapted to take into account such specificities.
With this purpose in mind, she proposed the integration of relevant fishing activity and fisheries-related data in the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet), ensuring the required compliance with EU Regulations that guarantee adequate levels of confidentiality of information, the protection of intellectual property and the safeguard of legitimate commercial interests.
Throughout the process of preparing the report, MEP Patrão Neves established contacts with relevant authorities and stakeholders and organised last June a workshop in the European Parliament with the participation of international experts on this subject, which allowed gathering helpful contributions that resulted in a comprehensive, balanced and consensual report. Overall, by integrating relevant information on fisheries within the framework of EMODnet, this initiative will provide better knowledge on the spatial and temporal distribution and activity of the fishing fleet in European waters, which might help contributing towards long-term sustainable fisheries, balanced exploitation of fishing resources and adequate protection of sensitive and fragile marine environments, such as vulnerable marine ecosystems (VME’s).