(Photo: European Commission)"Illegal fishing has to be eradicated from the high seas, and this is why the EU uses its diplomatic weight to push for rules like the UNCLOS or the United Nations Fish Stock Agreement to be enforced worldwide," EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said during "Re-energising the Oceans" conference in Brussels, on June 30th.

"Since 1/1/2014 we have a new common fisheries policy, sustainable and science based, phasing out discarding and implementing the same principles for European vessels worldwide.
Through this new policy we have banned all types of subsidies at European level, that lead to overcapacity and overfishing. Our European fund has no granting for fuel subsidies at all," she said.

"In practice the EU requires that any fish import be accompanied by a catch certificate," Damanaki explained, adding " in other words the fish has to be caught legally; otherwise it won't get into our market. "
Speaking about future steps the Commissioner voiced the need for an integrated approach at international level.

" So far we have given special attention to promising maritime sectors such as marine biotech, aquaculture, ocean energy, deep sea mining and tourism. We think that with a focused research effort and steps to improve the environment for innovation, these sectors can prosper in a smart and sustainable way.

"Spatial planning gives operators certainty"

"A key tool to ensure sufficient marine space for concurrent economic activities is maritime spatial planning. If all goes well our legislative proposal should enter into force after the summer and it is a historic achievement. For the first time in the world, countries have a legal obligation to cooperate in planning their seas across borders.

Spatial planning gives operators certainty on whether and what economic developments are possible, where and for how long. It will speed up licensing and permit procedures, and will provide good management of the cumulative impact of maritime activities. It a huge and real step for marine governance in Europe."

Damanaki also stressed the importance of research, saying "ocean observation, mapping and forecasting are essential in this vein. This is why the EU has directly and explicitly geared its financial support, and particularly its research funds, towards the sea."
"Since last year, the EU, the United States and Canada have started a transatlantic research alliance which is to cover observing systems and ocean stressors, as well as research in the Arctic region, a fragile environment that is undergoing enormous change in terms of temperature and human activity."

"We hope to see similar forms of cooperation with and between other countries in the future."

Press Release: European Commission, 4th of July 2014