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EU climate action in ocean governance and fisheries policy

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Written by Frederik Scholaert.

Marine resources are a vital and growing source of food for human consumption, while oceans also play an important role in climate regulation. Scientific evidence shows that the climate system has changed rapidly in recent decades, with the oceans greatly mitigating the effects of climate change by absorbing excess heat and human-made carbon emissions. The velocity of the effects of climate change leaves little room for adaptation, causing both declines in abundance and geographic shifts in fish populations. As a result, people who rely heavily on seafood and fisheries for their livelihoods run the risk of income loss and food insecurity.

The European Green Deal places climate action at the heart of a wide range of new legislative and non-legislative initiatives and includes ambitious goals such as achieving climate-neutrality by 2050 and preserving and protecting biodiversity. The new ‘farm to fork’ strategy addresses the challenges of sustainability in the food supply chain and, in the area of seafood, highlights the imminent update of the strategic guidelines on aquaculture, the goal to support the algae industry and the focus on climate change in the 2022 common fisheries policy review. In its biodiversity strategy, the Commission proposes a new binding target of 30 % marine protected areas in EU waters by 2030, a target supported by Parliament.

A reduction in fishing pressure could also offset the environmental impacts of climate change. The last reform of the common fisheries policy marked an important milestone by requiring fish stocks to be restored and maintained above levels capable of producing the maximum sustainable yield. An own-initiative report from Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries focuses specifically on the impact of rising seawater temperatures on fish stocks and fisheries. The oceans can be harnessed to help to close the emissions gap however, by unlocking their renewable offshore energy potential. In its offshore renewable energy strategy, the Commission aims to reach a deployment of 300 GW in offshore wind capacity by 2050, a 20-fold increase compared to today. Another own-initiative report from Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries looks into the impact on the fishing sector of offshore wind and other renewable energy systems.

Cumulative installed capacity of offshore wind energy worldwide
Cumulative installed capacity of offshore wind energy worldwide

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Read the complete briefing on ‘EU climate action in ocean governance and fisheries policy‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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