The EESC welcomes the joint communication by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on improved ocean governance, and shares the growing concern about the need for better governance and protection of the oceans due to increased human activity (unsustainable fishing, inadequate protection, tourism, heavy traffic, pollution).
The EESC believes that the current framework for international ocean governance is unable to ensure the sustainable management of oceans and their resources, and urgent action is imperative. However, the Commission and the High Representative still need to prioritise the threats currently faced by our oceans in order to adequately reflect the urgent need for action.
One of the causes of ineffective international ocean governance is the existence of gaps in the current international ocean governance framework. The EESC recommends that the Commission and High Representative address these gaps and inconsistencies, but also that they increase compliance with existing rules, for example by improving the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The EU should refrain from proposing any new legislation when better or more coordinated implementation of existing rules and regulations would be more efficient.
The EESC believes that the EU could play an important role in improving the governance of our oceans, especially in supporting scientific research into the world’s oceans. Good and effective use must be made of currently available data. The Committee therefore strongly encourages the EU to develop the Marine Observation and Data Network into a worldwide marine data network. The EU could become a centre of coordination for such research.
Furthermore, the EESC urges the EU to work with partner countries to reduce maritime security threats and risks, such as piracy and trafficking in human beings, arms and narcotics, while capitalising on the new European Border and Coastguard Agency, the EU Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA).
The EESC strongly encourages the establishment of an EU Stakeholder forum dedicated to oceans and seas worldwide, especially since ocean governance is a cross-cutting issue involving a number of stakeholders.
The EESC believes that ocean governance should balance socio-economic development and marine conservation. Technologies for the exploitation of seabed resources need to be used with care and caution.
Last but not least, the EESC notes that the joint communication actions address the governance of both oceans and seas, and therefore suggests that the title of the joint communication be changed to "an agenda for the future of our oceans and seas".