Organisations working on the ecological transition of the Mediterranean basin used the COP27 climate summit to push for the region’s future as part of a circular economy.
The Mediterranean Sea, which covers 1% of the world’s marine surface, stretches across a 46,000 kilometre-coastline, spans 24 countries and is home to over 150 million people.
Still, its value is estimated at $5.6 trillion as it rakes in a yearly $450 billion in gross marine product (GMP) which amounts to 3% of the EU’s GDP as 20 % of the world’s global marine production is concentrated there.
This year’s annual UN climate conference (COP27), hosted by Egypt, was the opportunity for environmental actors to make their concerns known.
For them, maritime activities – the blue economy – must become more environmentally-friendly and move towards a new model: the circular economy.
Going green, going circular
A circular economy is about eliminating waste and pollution; circulating products and materials; regenerating nature.
In 2020, the European Commission adopted a new circular economy action plan to reduce natural resource consumption, recycle more and reduce waste. The aim is to double the use of circular materials by 2030, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 43 % and generating €600 billion and 700,000 new jobs. By 2050, the objective is to reduce carbon emissions by 83 %.
To help finance the sector’s transition, the European Maritime Affairs, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMAF) will provide €5.4 billion, €500 million of which will go to France.
Over the last 20 years, aquaculture has developed considerably. Production in Mediterranean countries was estimated at 2.4 million tonnes in 2019.
At the same time, seafood processing produces 50-70 % by-products. Fish guts, heads and other products initially considered as waste, for example, are now used as animal feed, food supplements, collagen, enzymes for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, biogas, and more.
Shellfish from farming and the fishing industry, for example, is now widely recognised as good substrates for regenerating natural shorelines.
Algae also have “enormous untapped potential,” according to Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU Commissioner for the environment and fisheries.
The challenge lies in developing European production, as the vast majority of products currently consumed in Europe come from Asia.
The Commission is working on this and has just adopted a pioneering initiative entitled “Blue Bioeconomy – towards a strong and sustainable EU algae sector”.
This project is articulated within the Blue Economy Community, one of the axes of the EU’s €294 million Interreg Euro-MED Programme for the period 2021-2022 to develop a blue economy approach in the northern Mediterranean countries.