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Oceans and fisheries

Ocean sustainability by 2030

The ocean and climate change are closely intertwined: the ocean and its ecosystems are essential to regulate the climate and are at the same time hugely impacted by climate change. Ocean and climate actions must therefore go hand in hand.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raised the alarm on the impacts of climate change on the ocean. It emphasised the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take sustained and robust adaptation action.

The EU has anchored climate neutrality by 2050 into its law, in line with the Paris Agreement, and is committed to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from maritime activities and to make continued progress in climate adaptation. The European Commission proposed a range of measures to ensure that EU maritime transport contributes to reaching this goal.

In a similar vein, the EU will continue to act on decarbonising the fishing sector to reduce also the dependency on fossil (primarily diesel) fuels, including by exploring mitigation measures and fishing strategies and gears that reduce emissions and improve energy use efficiency.

The EU considers that offshore wind and ocean energy is part of the solution for achieving its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050, in line with the EU strategy on offshore renewable energy.

Nature-based solutions can also provide climate change mitigation and adaptation by increasing carbon uptake and storage.

The EU is committed to stopping pollution of all kinds, notably from land-based sources to sea. Since the adoption of its plastics strategy (2018), the EU has been a driving force in tackling plastic pollution worldwide. It is actively engaged in the global negotiations for an ambitious legally binding Global Plastic Agreement by 2024, as agreed at UNEA5. It is also determined to drastically reduce land-based pollution of nutrients and chemical pesticides, and to take decisive steps outlined in the EU zero pollution action plan.

The EU is scaling up its efforts to tackle problems with flag states acting as ‘open registers’, chosen by some vessel operators to take advantage of certain states’ weak compliance with international obligations or control over the vessels (fishing and maritime transport) registered under their flags.

In line with its blue economy approach, the EU will seek to promote economic growth, improve livelihoods while ensuring sustainable use of marine resources and the well-being of coastal communities.

In addition, seafood brings an important contribution to food and nutrition security. As the world’s largest import market for seafood products, the EU is striding towards safeguarding market entry only for products that are sustainably sourced and produced.

In line with the Farm-to-Fork Strategy, the Commission will make a legislative proposal for a sustainable food systems framework to mainstream sustainability in all food-related policies.

The steadily increasing demand for use of the ocean requires integrated planning of maritime space that takes due account of the interests of all maritime sectors and their impact on the marine environment. The EU has gained significant experience in the maritime spatial planning (MSP) domain and is working together with IOC-UNESCO in promoting it internationally through the MSP global Initiative.  Using MSP promotes transboundary cooperation and helps minimise spatial conflicts and manage cumulative impacts worldwide.