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Towards the future of Sustainable Blue Economy


How to boost the impact of the sustainable blue economy in the Adriatic and Ionian area?

The EUSAIR event ”Towards the future of blue growth in the Adriatic and Ionian Basin”, which took place in Rimini on 7 July, in the stunning frame of the Fulgor Cinema, tried to find out the answer to these and many other questions. The conference was organised by the Marche Region, as Italian partner of the project “Supporting the Governance of EUSAIR: Facility Point”, related to Pillar 1 of the EUSAIR Strategy – Blue Growth – in collaboration with the Emilia-Romagna Region, the Veneto Region, the Municipality of Rimini, Ecomondo – Italian Exhibition Group and Legacoop Agroalimentare.

The Innovative Sustainable Economy Mission participated in the event through the Institutional Dialogue project.

Here are some reflections from the Conference.

What is the sustainable blue economy?

“If the global blue economy, were compared to a national economy, it would be the seventh largest in the world, and the ocean as an economic entity would be a member of the G7. It operates in the planet’s vastest ecosystem: oceans hold 97% of all our water and 80% of all life forms. The ocean surrounds and sustains us, providing enough oxygen for every second breath we take, food for almost half of humanity, and critical resources for human health, not to mention a web of economic interactions”

 (from COM(2021) 240 final)

The expression “Sustainable Blue Economy” refers to a sustainable business model with a positive and long-term impact, encompassing all economic activities related to the sea, coasts, and seabed.

In May 2021, the European Commission published a Communication for a Sustainable Blue Economy, defining a new approach integrating blue growth into the European Green Deal and the European Recovery Strategy (Next Generation EU). The aim is to achieve a more resilient blue economy that contributes to climate change mitigation and fosters the development of synergies between the different actors and production sectors. The Communication, therefore, sets out a detailed agenda for greening the blue economy. It outlines a new approach that calls on all maritime stakeholders to reorient their activities towards the responsible use of natural resources, decarbonisation, and circular economy principles.

Towards the future of blue growth in the Adriatic and Ionian Basin: main highlights

Two years after the publication of the Communication, the event was an opportunity to reflect on the progress achieved so far in the Adriatic-Ionian region.

It started with European strategies and funds supporting the sustainable blue economy. The speakers pointed out the need to further strengthen investments in research (e.g. Mission Oceans and Waters), skills, and innovation and to mobilise funding opportunities under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and other EU programmes such as the Resilience and Recovery Facility, and Interreg programmes. This will allow for the development of actions and projects that can concretely achieve the objectives set at the European level and support the Blue Economy stakeholders in the implementation of the Macro-Regional Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR). The strategy, whose Action Plan is currently under review, has a pillar entirely dedicated to blue growth, focusing mainly on blue technologies, fisheries and aquaculture, and maritime and marine governance. For the future, it will be essential for this pillar to further emphasise the focus on sustainability and the links of the quadruple helix in all sectors of the blue economy.

The event highlighted the importance of synergies between funds, and networking between the different actors in the world of the blue economy, at public (national and regional), private and international (UN Decade of Ocean Science, UfM) levels. Awareness-raising activities aimed at citizens and young people are also essential and are being carried out through several initiatives such as EU4Oceans and Youth Ocean Ambassadors.

To illustrate the heterogeneity of the world of the blue economy, some international projects financed by different EU funding programmes in the past and current programming period 2021-2027 were presented during the event. Among them, important names linked to the Interreg world stand out: I) PORTODIMARE, a project for the sustainable management of the coastal and marine environment; II) PRIZEFISH, a project to implement innovative actions and tools for Adriatic fisheries operators; III) SUSHI DROP, a project related to the monitoring and conservation of biodiversity in the Adriatic Sea.

The Innovative Sustainable Economy Mission participated in the event through the Institutional Dialogue Project, Dialogue4Innovation. During his contribution, Alessandro Daraio provided a context for the Sustainable Blue Economy within the Mission, highlighting the added value of transnational cooperation and innovation to achieve impact in this broad sector. Over the next seven years, and building on the lessons learned from previous experiences such as B-BLUE and BLUEBIOMED, the Mission’s governance projects will contribute to:

  • Increase the interactions between the actors of the innovation ecosystem in the Mediterranean (and not only), supporting the expansion of the Mission’s network even beyond the institutional actors linked to the Interreg world;
  • Implement concrete actions to increase the knowledge of policy makers and Mediterranean actors on the initiatives and experiences carried out, including on the Blue Economy, thanks to European funding programmes.

During the final session, the topic of skills and so-called blue careers was discussed, giving voice to two important experiences: BOUTCAR, funded by EMFAF, and Green to Blue, funded by Erasmus+. In the European Year of Skills, both projects are examples to be followed and developed, as they have contributed to the creation of training frameworks for young people and adults who want to work in the blue economy, especially in the field of fisheries and aquaculture and marine environmental monitoring.

In conclusion, the event organised by EUSAIR provided an opportunity for relevant stakeholders to present and discuss the environmental, social, and economic importance and benefits of sustainable growth and the opportunities for a green recovery of the blue economy.