Maria Damanaki: Approaching five years as commissioner

September 19, 2014

Maria Damanaki monoMaria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will address the World Research and Innovation Congress-Oceans on 15 October in Lisbon.

“When it comes to managing the seas and oceans we have to be smart; smarter than we have ever been.”

Following a long and diverse career in politics, in November 2009 Damanaki was nominated representative of Greece in the European Commission (EC), and later that month was elected the Commissioner-designate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. To read a full biography, click here.

Damanaki’s keynote address will follow Dr Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, on day one of the event at 9.30 am. Click here to view the full Congress agenda.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

The EC Directorate General (DG) for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries works to ensure that exploitation of the oceans remains sustainable and Europe’s maritime heritage continues to grow. At the heart of the department’s work is the notion that environmental protection and economic growth are synergistic – not in opposition.

The DG responds to the many challenges faced by Europe’s seas today: pollution, overfishing, urbanisation, coastal erosion and safety. To achieve this, it facilitates cooperation between maritime stakeholders, across sectors and borders, in order to develop a robust maritime economy in Europe.

Key achievements

During her time as commissioner, Damanaki has led significant changes to policy and funding, all with a view to protecting the sustainability of the oceans and facilitating the growth of Europe’s maritime industries.

The common fisheries policy (CFP)

The CFP is the basis for rational and fair harvesting of food from the sea; a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and conserving fish stocks. It ensures all European fishing fleets have equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds, but also takes action to ensure the European fishing industry is sustainable.

First introduced in the 1970s, Damanaki oversaw the most recent reform to the CFP in January this year. The current policy stipulates that catch limits should be set between 2015 and 2020, in an effort to maintain fish stocks in the long term. The reform also changed the way the CFP is managed, giving EU countries greater control at  both the national and regional level.

The policy is funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which helps fishermen convert to sustainable fishing and finances projects that create new jobs on European coasts.

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Enforcing fisheries rules in Portugal

Under Damanaki’s leadership, the Commission recently adopted an action plan to upgrade the Portuguese fisheries control system to European standards. Prepared in concert with the Portuguese authorities, the plan ensures that Portugal complies with the requirements of the Fisheries Control Regulation and the new Common Fisheries Policy.

The plan is focused on the catch registration system, ensuring that essential data to monitor catches are complete, accurate and timely.

“I have an obligation to make sure that commonly agreed rules are enforced on the ground: this is a prerequisite for sustainability. We have worked hand in hand with the Portuguese authorities on this action plan,” said Damanaki.

New maritime spatial planning legislation

Just this month, Damanaki spearheaded a new European Directive to help Member States coordinate activities that compete for space in the sea, from fishing grounds to marine protected areas. The Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSPD) will help Member States to work together , involving all stakeholders to avoid conflicts.

Damanaki explains: “1.6 million jobs can be created in Europe’s maritime economy by 2020. For this to happen, investors need a predictable environment, also at sea. The Directive does not only help Member States to avoid conflicts when they plan activities at sea, it will also ensure that we consider the impact of those maritime activities on the environment. This is not a small achievement: the EU has created the first legislation worldwide that makes maritime spatial planning compulsory and which requires cooperation between countries at their borders”.

Member States must integrate the Directive into their national legislation by 2016, and by 2021 all maritime spatial plans for national waters should be in place.

To read Damanaki’s latest interview in International Innovation magazine, where she discusses the importance of Maritime Spatial Planning, click here.