European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, participated in the 23rd North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference in the Faroe Islands, August 27-28.

The annual high-level event was attended by ministers from northern Atlantic countries to address issues of concern in an informal setting.

“And the importance of this should not be underestimated. This is how successful cooperation is born. By taking the time to sit down and talk to each other, face to face – and by listening to each other as well,” said Vella. “And what better place to do so than here, surrounded by beautiful countryside and sweeping vistas wherever you turn!”

Vella presented the EU’s ocean agenda. “Challenges like rising sea levels and water temperatures, eutrophication and acidification,” he said. “Or marine litter. If we continue business as usual, less than ten years from now, the ocean could contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish.”

According to the Commissioner, 30% of commercial fish stocks are overfished.

“International waters risk becoming safe havens for illegal activities – whether it’s piracy, human trafficking, smuggling or illegal fishing. With serious economic consequences. The cost of illegal fishing alone is estimated at around 10 billion euros per year.”

On climate change, Vella stressed that this problem knows no borders. “Fish have neither passports nor nationalities. A plastic bottle entering the ocean in Asia can end up halfway around the world – and will still be floating in the sea when our great-great-grandchildren go to the beach.”

Vella stressed that better ocean governance is not just about closing governance gaps. “It’s also about reducing the pressure we humans put on the oceans, whether from overfishing, marine pollution, or man-made climate change.”

“Finally, ensuring safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans will only be possible if we have reliable and accessible ocean data at our disposal… Only together do we stand a chance in keeping our oceans healthy and productive for generations to come.”