VALLETTA – The European Union said on Thursday that it will make the satellites of its Copernicus program available for maritime research and controlling illegal activities in the oceans, with a total of 27 million euros ($31.7 million) in investments over the next two years.
Federica Mogherini, EU representative for foreign policy, and the commissioner for the environment Karmenu Vella highlighted this agreement among the 36 approved by the EU in the “Our Ocean” global conference, taking place in Malta on Thursday and Friday.
The EU commitments, which amount to a 560 million euro investment, will not only involve European waters but oceans around the world, Vella said in a press conference.
The satellites of the Copernicus program will monitor the marine pollution by oil spills and illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing in the northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean, Baltic and Black seas apart from areas used by European vessels in the Pacific Ocean and the waters around the Canary Islands.
Copernicus will also create indicators for maritime monitoring, particularly about the biochemistry and the changes introduced by climate change, which will be analyzed and published in a report over the state of oceans, to be made public by the end of 2018.
However, the major part of the EU commitments, more than 250 million euros, will be used in financing marine research and innovation, with 40 million to promote maritime transport with less emissions and 30 million for promoting clean energy in the seas.
Vella also highlighted initiatives to clean trash and other pollutants from the sea, and the BLUEMED initiative which aims to make the Mediterranean Sea healthy and productive through science and research.
In agreements against climate change, the EU will invest 10 million euros in a joint project with the International Maritime Organization to establish five centers of cooperation in maritime technology, one each in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, in order to help developing countries reduce emissions in maritime transport.
The EU also announced other measures such as BIOPAMA-II, for regulation of protected marine zones in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, creation of Restricted Fishing Zones for protecting the habitat of various marine species in the territorial waters of Italy, Croatia and in the Adriatic ocean.
Significant commitments were also announced for the sustainable fishing program PESCAO – for better management of regional fisheries and stopping illegal fishing in western Africa – and for supporting the Food and Agriculture Organization in protecting the ecological and economic wealth of the Mediterranean.
For better maritime security, 37.5 million euros have been assigned for the fight against piracy in the southeastern coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Maria Jose Cornax, the Europe policy director of the nonprofit Oceana, told EFE that the EU investment in marine research and control in other regions is a very good initiative, but it distracts from the “real” problems of lack of conservation in European seas and the environmental crisis in the Mediterranean.