The blue bio-economy, an economic sector with enormous growth opportunities – EESC calls for new initiatives

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Fisheries, aquaculture and algae cultivation are crucial to increasing sustainable aquatic food production in the EU, promoting food security and creating economic growth and sustainable jobs. The potential of the blue bio-economy remains untapped in the EU. The EESC therefore recommends introducing pan-European pilot projects, and based on their results tapping the sector's full potential with the involvement of both local stakeholders and the scientific community. 

At the request of the Finnish presidency of the EU, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has drawn up an exploratory opinion on the Blue Bio-Economy. The blue bio-economy refers to economic activities and value creation based on sustainable and smart use of renewable aquatic resources and related expertise. It includes businesses and activities that grow the raw materials for these products, or that extract, refine, process and transform their biological components.

Priority measures for the blue bio-economy include: clean water and sanitation; a healthy, diverse and safe aquatic environment; sustainable aquatic food production; high-value non-food products; climate change adaptation; blue health and well-being; and better coordination in combating illegal activities involving aquatic resources.

Essential factor for ensuring food security and achieving the SDGs

In its opinion the EESC has made suggestions for boosting the blue bio-economy throughout Europe and thereby contributing among others to food security, water quality and marine ecosystems, but also to achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The majority of the EU Member States have direct access to the sea, but in Europe lakes and rivers also play a crucial role in most countries. The blue bio-economy is already an economic factor in many of the EU Member States but with the potential for further development, explained Simo Tiainen, rapporteur for the opinion. Restoring the biodiversity of seas, lakes and rivers would open up new opportunities for businesses – particularly for family and small businesses in local markets. This also requires technological innovation and services, and the appropriate financial support through appropriate financing instruments.

We suggest that the Commission launches pilot measures in selected areas of the EU to improve the state of production capacity of aquatic ecosystems, added co-rapporteur Henri Malosse. These pilot projects should be undertaken in collaboration with local political stakeholders, involving universities and research centres, as well as local professionals and relevant civil society actors. Based on the experiences and lessons learned from these pilot projects, the EU should promote awareness-raising, education, training and knowledge-sharing.

 Under certain conditions, these findings should also be made available to third countries. In particular, the blue bio-economy should become a focal point of the EU's co-operation programme with the United Nations and serve as a tool to achieve the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement.

Good water quality is the basis for the blue bio-economy. The EU has the potential to become a major player in the provision of water-related technologies and services. Digitalisation can help to significantly increase the efficiency both of water resource management and of production and service concepts, said Simo Tiainen. The need for fresh water will continue to increase.

In addition, the blue bio-economy could become an important factor in improving food security and providing healthy food with a low carbon footprint, novel foods and food additives, but also animal feeds, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, clean water, and non-fossil energy, to name but a few.

The blue bio-economy can be part of the solution in the fight against climate change and the food systems of the future. This will require very important efforts in restoring the biodiversity in both marine and inland waters as well as in valorising their potential of CO2 captures. In this way we will create quality jobs in rural, coastal and islands areas, concluded Henri Malosse.

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