The blue bio-economy means economic activities and value creation based on sustainable and smart use of renewable aquatic resources and the related expertise. There is a vast amount of expertise, know-how and human tradition linked to water, aquatic resources and the blue bio-economy in Europe. Nonetheless, with regard to its potential and opportunities, business activities related to the blue bio-economy are still rather modest in Europe.
There is a need to preserve and restore the good status and biodiversity of the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. This requires a major effort from all the stakeholders, including the EU, national and regional institutions, universities and research centres, all professionals involved (e.g. fishing and tourism sectors) as well as civil society organisations.
Increased investments are needed in the management of aquatic environments and sanitation facilities to ensure access to, and sustainable use of, clean water and adequate sanitation for all.
The EESC calls for the EU and other actors within the blue bio-economy to come up with urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Fisheries, aquaculture and algae culture are crucial to increase sustainable aquatic food production in EU. Developing climate-resilient aquatic food systems requires further research and innovation prior to successful implementation.
Joint efforts between universities, research centres, NGOs and the fishing sector are needed to develop new added value products from fish by-products and waste materials. New financing instruments are needed to promote technological innovations and services. Restoring the biodiversity of the seas, lakes and rivers will open up new opportunities for business, mainly, including family and small businesses on local markets.
The European Union is called upon to promote awareness-raising, education and training incorporating research and the exploitation and transfer of the know-how of communities in coastal and inland water areas, enabling respectful management of the environment and the creation of European training networks in this field. For agriculture, the EU should also address the issue of water scarcity.
The EESC suggests that the blue bio-economy become one of the flagship areas of EU policies and in its cooperation policies with neighbouring countries, as well as in the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the COP 21 Goals of the Paris Agreement. In this regard, the EESC proposes that the EU Council and to the European Parliament ask the Commission to launch several pilot actions in the different marine and aquaculture areas of the EU. A management committee should be set up including Member States, regions, and stakeholders, with the participation of the EESC.