The EU has presented an action plan to help make better, responsible use of Europe’s ocean resources.
With two thirds of the planet covered by water, the sea’s resources can help us to meet our food, medicine and energy needs. The “blue economy” could also contribute to sustainable growth.
However, the knowledge about the sea is limited, and EU countries’ research efforts are not yet sufficiently well coordinated.
Research and innovation
The action plan aims to create:
– a digital map of the entire European seabed by 2020. 30% of Europe’s seabed has not yet been surveyed, and datasets are held by different organisations. Knowing what is happening in and under the sea will enable us to make the most of our oceans while ensuring that delicate ecosystems are not being damaged;
– an online information hub by 2016. This will share details and results of research projects, to prevent research being duplicated and speed up innovation;
– a Business and Science Forum involving the private sector, scientists and NGOs, to help shape the future of the blue economy and share ideas.
As the sector grows, Europe will need more engineers and scientists with knowledge of new technologies.
For example, offshore wind power is expected to need a further 131 000 employees by 2020.
The action plan encourages research and business organisations to prepare the field by mapping out the needs and skills that will be required.
Economy and environment
Over 5 million people are already employed in Europe’s blue economy, in sectors ranging from tourism to fisheries.
Between 2007 and 2013, the EU contributed an average of €350m a year to ocean research, on top of the €1.3bn earmarked for national projects by European countries.
Horizon 2020 – an EU innovation programme to boost economic growth – has a budget of €145m for “blue” growth in 2014-2015 alone.
While growth opportunities are developed, however, the ocean must be protected for future generations. Sustainability and growth can go hand in hand – for example, cleaner water means shellfish can be sold at a higher price.
Ocean monitoring will continue, to measure the environmental impact of the blue economy.