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Oceans and fisheries

International ocean governance

International ocean governance is about managing the world's oceans and their resources together so that they are healthy and productive, for the benefit of current and future generations.

Oceans are essential for humankind as climate regulators, as a source for nutritious and healthy food, and as an engine for development. The OECD estimates that ocean-based industries contribute roughly €1.3 trillion to global gross value added. Oceans are also home to a rich, fragile, and still largely unexplored biodiversity, which provides a variety of important ecosystem services. For instance, oceans produce half of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere and absorb 25% of CO2 emissions.

Oceans are under intense pressure from human activities. Overexploitation and illegal activities, climate change, and marine pollution are threatening our ocean's health and productivity. With the world’s population expected to reach 9-10 billion by 2050, pressures will increase and global competition for raw materials, food, water and space will intensify.

Oceans are highly dynamic and interconnected; around two-thirds of the world’s oceans are areas beyond the national jurisdiction of states. Their specific characteristics and status imply a shared global responsibility and the need to cooperate and coordinate across boundaries and borders to take meaningful action.


Review on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

On 19 July 2023 the European Commission presented its first-ever voluntary review on Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Halfway through the implementation of its 2030 Agenda the record is clear, much has been achieved, but a lot is left to be done.

The SDG 14 “Life below water” presents moderate but clear progress in the EU

  • Significant progress achieved under the common fisheries policy (CFP), but sustainability levels have yet to be reached for all fisheries.
  • Progress was made to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA), but more work is needed, notably for strictly protected MPAs.
  • Because of pollution and acidification, marine ecosystems remain under stress: good environmental status by 2020 has not been reached under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Press release: The EU's Voluntary Review reaffirms commitment to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals at home and around the world

Communication on international ocean governance (2022)

In 2022, the European Commission and the EU's High Representative set out a new joint communication on international ocean governance: Setting the course for a sustainable blue planet, Joint Communication on the EU’s International Ocean Governance agenda

The joint communication is an integral part of the EU's implementation of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 on Life Below Water. The updated agenda has an important role in delivering on the blue part of the European Green Deal and demonstrates the EU strong engagement for the ocean.

The communication builds on the Joint Communication from 2016 and takes account of key trends such as the exacerbated impact of climate change and dangerous decline of biodiversity. It also takes into consideration changed geopolitical conditions such as the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which has brought about instability and insecurity.

The communication specifies several integrated actions for a safe, secure, clean, healthy and sustainably managed ocean, under 4 policy pillars

  1. strengthening the international ocean governance framework
  2. making ocean sustainability a reality by 2030
  3. ensuring security and safety at sea
  4. building up ocean knowledge