Maritime and land-based activities in the southern Mediterranean region, along with an increasing coastline’s population, are generating pressures affecting marine and coastal ecosystems. Current patterns of economic development in the region are characterized by resource-intensive production processes, as well as consumption intensive lifestyles, both of which contribute to resource scarcity, pollution, waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions.
However, an economic growth that takes the coastal and ocean environment into account can help support job creation, improved livelihoods while preserving the environment. The Blue Economy concept, as defined by the European Union, “allows society to obtain value from the oceans and coastal regions, whilst respecting the long-term capacity of the oceans to regenerate and endure such activities through the implementation of sustainable practices.”
As highlighted by the EU in its “EU Blue Economy report 2020”, circular economy models are efficient tools to preserve natural resources and boost economic activities that sustainably impact the world’s aquatic and coastal ecosystems.
Among the main challenges to achieve of a sustainable Blue Economy in the Mediterranean are:
• Sustainable use of natural resources and the conservation of marine biodiversity, linked to food and livelihood provision;
• Food security, focusing on development of sustainable fisheries or exploitation of wild fish stocks, and sustainable and efficient aquaculture industries;
• Climate change and carbon budgets, facilitating the transition towards a low carbon economy and a renewable “blue” energy generation to address the acidification of oceans and pH decrease (CO2 cycle), and enhance blue carbon cycles or carbon sequestration cycles, linked to the damage of coastal habitats such as mangroves, seagrass meadows or salt marshes;
• Marine and coastal tourism, which have consistently shown growing patterns over the past few years: increases of greenhouse gas emissions, water demand, sewage, waste generation, loss and degradation of coastal habitat, biodiversity and ecosystem services need to be addressed;
• Pollution and marine litter: a growing human population, the intensification of agriculture and urbanization of coastal areas are at the land-origin of increasing marine pollution, while shipping and marine resource exploitation (hydrocarbon or mining) are sea-based pollution sources.
In this context, the SwitchMed is commissioned to integrate a sustainable Blue Economy component in its programme thanks to an additional financial contribution of EUR 4,500,000 from the EU (EUR 2,500,000), the Italian Government (EUR 1,500,000) and the Catalan Waste Agency (EUR 500,000).
The objective of the Blue Economy component is to demonstrate and disseminate best practices to reduce the negative environmental impact on the marine ecosystem, as well as increase efficiency and competitiveness of both established and emerging blue economy sectors. To achieve an environmentally friendly Blue Economy in the Mediterranean region, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and resource efficiency practices will be applied to key socioeconomic activities.
Integrating a sustainable Blue Economy component within SwitchMed will contribute to tackle the above-mentioned challenges and preserve healthy marine and coastal ecosystems in the southern Mediterranean, ensuring the continuous delivery of goods and services for present and future generations. It will also enable the creation of employment opportunities for blue jobs in key socioeconomic activities such as fisheries and aquaculture; tourism and recreational activities; maritime transport and port activities; bio-prospecting or exploitation of biological resources; and exploitation of renewable energy sources.
The SwitchMed Blue Economy component includes the following five main activities, further described in the dedicated Thematic Areas pages of the SwitchMed website:
• Industry: Increased sustainability of the seafood value chain
• Start-ups and entrepreneurs: Promotion of sustainable entrepreneurship in the Blue Economy
• Policy-Regional: Integration of circular economy principles in Blue Economy sectors within the Barcelona Convention framework
• Policy-National: SCP mainstreamed into Blue Economy in key industries and value chains (fishing, shipping, tourism) in selected port cities/countries
• Networking Facility: Promotion of the consumption and production of sustainable products and services of the Blue Economy
Stay tuned to see the SwitchMed Blue Economy activities!
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