Délégation de l'Union européenne au Bénin

Taking care of our oceans

22/11/2016 - 10:39

International ocean governance: EU’s contribution for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans - an agenda for the future of our oceans.


On 10 November 2016, the European Commission and the EU's High Representative set out a joint agenda for the future of our oceans, proposing 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world.

The Joint Communication on international ocean governance builds on a widely shared understanding that the ocean governance framework needs to be strengthened, that pressures on the oceans need to be reduced and that the world's oceans must be used sustainably. It also stresses that a better understanding about the oceans is necessary to achieve these objectives.


The European Union is taking the lead to create a stronger system of ocean governance around the globe. The goal? To ensure that our oceans are safe, clean, secure and sustainably managed.


Oceans are fundamental to the very essence of life: they absorb 25% of the world's CO2 and produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe. A billion people depend on seafood as the main source of protein. Algae are used in products from cosmetics to medicine. 90% of the world's trade is seaborne. Energy from the oceans keeps our lights on and our homes warm.


Yet all is not well. Pressures from climate change and marine pollution are putting our oceans under severe stress. Fish stocks are being depleted because of illegal fishing. Over 10 million tonnes of litter enter the ocean every year – and every single plastic bottle takes centuries to decompose. International waters risk becoming safe havens for criminal activity, whether it's piracy, human trafficking, smuggling or illegal fishing.

It is time to stop taking our oceans for granted and start taking better care of this precious resource.


The UN's Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 include a goal, SDG 14, on conserving and sustainably using the world's oceans, seas and marine resources. And the European Union is tackling this challenge head on. This week the EU's foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini launched an initiative to improve the management of the world's oceans


As a strong global actor, the European Union sets out an agenda for better ocean governance based on a cross-sectoral, rules-based international approach. Three priority areas have been defined:


  1. First, improving the institutional framework for managing our oceans. Two thirds of the oceans lie beyond the reach of national law. While the international rules framework itself goes a long way, the sheer vastness of the oceans means enforcement can be weak and patchy.
  2. Second, reducing the effects of human pressure on the oceans and creating conditions for a sustainable blue economy. We want to use our oceans for economic gain, but without destroying them in the process.
  3. Third, we plan to invest in ocean science. If we want to take effective and sustainable action, we need to improve what we know about the oceans.


This week's proposals are not just an action plan for the European Union – they are an open invitation to our partners around the world. The EU will be hosting the 2017 edition of the international Our Ocean conference in Malta in October next year. This will be an excellent opportunity for the global ocean community to come together, take stock of where we stand and to commit to ensuring that the world's oceans are safe, clean, secure and sustainably managed – and how we tackle the challenges ahead.