Naples, 29 November 2017. With 46,000km coastline and unique marine and fisheries resources, the Mediterranean Sea represents the fifth largest economy in the region, with an overall value estimated at €4.7 trillion, according to recent studies. The region boasts 450 ports and terminals and nearly 30% of global seaborne trade by volume passes through them. The Mediterranean is also the world’s second-largest destination for cruise-ship tourism and the coastal population of 150 million people more than doubles during the tourist season. The assets and contributions of the marine and maritime sectors to the economy are remarkable, but there is potential for more. In the EU alone, the blue economy could unlock two million jobs by 2020 and many more jobs could be created throughout the region, thus giving young people real prospects for the future.
The UfM Regional Stakeholder Conference on the Blue Economy, which has kicked-off today in Naples, is the occasion to capitalise on this potential in an inclusive manner, bringing together over 400 key stakeholders dealing with marine and maritime issues from the entire region, including government representatives, regional and local authorities, international organisations, academia, the private sector and civil society. The conference will see the participation of the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, the UfM Secretary General, Fathallah Sijilmassi and the Italian Minister Plenipotentiary and Coordinator for Euro-Mediterranean Multilateral Affairs, Enrico Granara, among other personalities.
The main objective of this two-day event is to consolidate a Mediterranean blue economy community working on sustainable development solutions for the region, as well as to create partnerships and initiatives to harness the potential for blue growth. The conference will feature 12 thematic workshops on the whole range of sectors covered by the blue economy, namely blue jobs and training, research and innovation, blue entrepreneurship, coast guard cooperation, marine protected areas, offshore energy, coastal and maritime tourism, fisheries and aquaculture. The UfM Secretariat will launch a revamped Virtual Knowledge Centre on the Blue Economy, the web-based information and networking platform for blue economy stakeholders in the Mediterranean. The Secretariat will also sign a partnership agreement with the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to strengthen collaboration on the protection of the marine environment and the advancement of the blue economy.
Furthermore, on 30 November an informal Ministerial Meeting of the western Mediterranean countries will mark the official launch of the Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean. Ministers from the ten participating countries (Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia) are expected to adopt a declaration providing full political endorsement for the initiative adopted last April by the Commission and already endorsed by the Council in June, agree on its governance and establish a steering committee with a co-chairing regime.
The untapped potential of the Blue Economy can only be exploited through enhanced cooperation on sustainable development of the maritime and marine sectors among all Euro-Mediterranean countries at regional and sub-regional levels. All the above initiatives stem from the UfM Ministerial Declaration on the Blue Economy adopted by the 43 UfM Member countries in 2015, when UfM Ministers agreed on “the need for the Mediterranean region to make the best use of the potential of the blue economy, to promote growth, jobs and investments and reduce poverty, whilst safeguarding healthy seas”.
In line with the abovementioned Declaration, the UfM Secretariat is currently promoting region-wide cooperation projects such as the Plastic Busters for a Mediterranean free from litter, which directly supports the implementation of the UNEP/MAP Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean. With a total budget of €8.8 million over a four-year period, the project will enable to assess the amount, sources, pathways, distribution convergence areas and effects of marine litter to better mitigate and reduce its impact in the Mediterranean Sea.
The UfM Regional Stakeholder Conference on the Blue Economy is organised with the support of the European Commission, Regione Campania and the Swedish Government.