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Marine and fisheries

Climate change is expected to have severe impacts on the marine environment. Increase in water temperatures will contribute to a restructuring of marine ecosystems with implications for ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling and marine biodiversity. Ocean acidification will affect the ability of some calcium carbonate-secreting species (as molluscs, planktons and corals) to produce their shells or skeletons. Warmer and more acidic seawater will therefore negatively affect fishery and aquaculture. Moreover, the intensification of extreme events is expected to affect human maritime activities other than fishery, as maritime transport, port activities and offshore energy production.

The European Commission's EU strategy on adaptation to climate change includes a Staff Working Document addressing adaptation for coastal and marine areas. Furthermore, the EU has defined an articulated framework of cross-cutting and sector policies relevant for the sustainable management and governance of the sea. The EU Integrated Maritime Policy seeks to provide a more coherent and coordinated approach to marine and maritime issues, also considering climate change.

Policy framework

The Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) includes the following cross-cutting policies:

  • Blue Growth, the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors;
  • Maritime Spatial Planning, a tool and process to plan and regulate human uses at sea, aiming to maximise synergies and minimise conflicts;
  • Integrated maritime surveillance, providing authorities with ways to exchange information to improve effectiveness and reduce costs;
  • Sea basin strategies, exploiting the strengths and addressing the weaknesses of each large sea region in the EU.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is the IMP’s environmental pillar. It establishes a common framework within which Member State are required to take the necessary measures to achieve and maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU's coastal and marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. Under MSFD, and in developing their respective national marine strategies, Member States need to specify, where appropriate, any evidence of climate change impacts.

Finally, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was firstly introduced in 1970 and significantly reformed in 2013. CFP defines a set of common rules aiming to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens.


Improving the knowledge base

As part of its IMP policy, the EU is putting lot of effort in bringing together marine data from different sources (Marine Knowledge 2000). EMODNET, the European Marine Observation and Data Network, provides access to a wide variety of data, products and metadata related to bathymetry, geology, seabed habitats, chemistry, biology, physics and human activities. Moreover, the Copernicus marine environment monitoring service provides regular and systematic reference information on the state of the physical oceans and regional seas, while the European Atlas of the Sea shares a diverse range of spatial information about Europe’s seas and coasts.

The EU´s Research and Innovation programme 2014– 2020  , provides the framework and funding to further improve the knowledge base also covering adaptation in the marine and fisheries sector. A number of research projects supported by the FP7 (7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development) have furthermore contributed with knowledge on marine and fisheries (as for example VECTORS, EPOCA or ACCESS).

EEA has in 2015 published a ‘  report examining whether the EU is meeting its policy goals for the quality of the marine environment and a report on the progress made regarding  .


Supporting investment and funding

EU funding for adaptation is supported by the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, which ensures that climate adaptation actions have been integrated into all the major EU spending programmes. Further information can be found here.


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