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The sea, a great opportunity for Europe’s economic growth

The blue economy –the one linked to the sea and its resources– constitutes a great opportunity for Europe’s development and economic growth. This became clear during the conference ‘Green Innovation-Blue Growth. Sustainable seas and oceans’ which Azti-Tecnalia organised within the framework of the Sinaval Eurofishing fair.

The event served to highlight some of the local initiatives that are being carried out within the blue economy, like offshore aquaculture, fishing as a viable, sustainable activity, seaside leisure, or the quest for new biological marine resources. The conference focussed on the five strategic sectors that the European Commission has established to drive forward its Integrated Maritime Policy. These hubs are maritime tourism, the mining of mineral marine resources, aquaculture, marine bioprospecting and renewable marine energies. These strategic hubs constitute “an opportunity that could contribute towards overcoming the current crisis,” as Lorenzo Motos, Head of Azti-Tecnalia’s Marine Research Divission, pointed out. The expert spoke of the need to apply innovation and research in these sectors as a way of contributing towards developing it sustainably and profitably. The activities relating to the sea offer a great potential for growth and currently employ 5.4 million people throughout the European Union, according to the European Commission’s data gathered in its report entitled: "Blue Growth: scenarios and drivers for sustainable growth from the oceans, seas and coasts". This supreme European body calculates that this figure could by 2020 rise to seven million people, while the gross added value contributed by the sectors relating to the sea could rise from the current 500,000 million euros to close to 600,000 million euros. Eduardo Balguerías, General Director of the Spanish Institute for Oceanography (IEO), and Lorenzo Motos, Head of Innovation at Azti-Tecnalia, presented examples of knowledge and technologies applied in support of profitable and sustainable fishery activity. The spotting of fishery opportunities based on the assessment of the state of the fishery populations and the specification of sustainable exploitation strategies was one of the examples presented. At the same time, examples were provided of technologies applied to cost cutting and improvement in the impact of the activities on the ecosystem. Aquaculture, a booming sector in Europe, also had a place at the conference. Diego Mendiola, an Azti-Tecnalia researcher and expert on the subject, presented various experiences in offshore mollusc rearing and fattening. And Carlos Foruria, head of INNOVACT, presented the progress made in the development of an underwater cage prototype for the offshore fattening of fish, a project being promoted by a consortium of Basque companies and supported by the Fishermen's Guilds. As regards marine tourism, Azti-Tecnalia's oceanographer Pedro Liria presented the Kostasystem experience, an automatic system for monitoring the sands by means of cameras that pick up the movements of the sea and sand. It has currently been implemented on five beaches in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. Making use of the sea as a supplier of products for society as a whole was another of the subjects presented during the conference. The quest for and application of new biological and genetic marine resources –known as marine bioprospecting– could find applications in areas like food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, chemical products and biofuel, as explained by Simon Munt, manager of Medicinal Chemistry at Pharmamar, and Trond Ø. Jørgensen, head of the Norwegian centre MabCent-SFI/UiT, Tromsø. The conference also served to highlight the work of MARNET (Atlantic Regions Marine Network), which aims to assess the Atlantic marine economy through reliable socioeconomic data that can be compared among the various regions. Another of the new items in the conference was the presentation of the Euskampus Knowledge Hub into Ocean Health and Sustainable Upgrading.