Uma atualização marítima – that’s Portuguese for a maritime update!

The North Sea Region Programme’s Project Advisor Jenny Thomsen and UK National Contact Point Vanessa Pilley share their thoughts from the European Maritime Day in Lisbon.

The North Sea Region Programme takes a keen interest in marine management – and for good reason: The region suffers from many vulnerable coastal areas and the North Sea is the international trade hub for most of the continent because of its deep water ports.  

At the EU Maritime Day event, we were thrilled to learn about a broad range of trends and topical themes including invasive species, marine spatial planning, marine litter, bio-economy, and more.

Conference highlights

Whilst wandering through the exhibition hall and attending workshops, we were delighted to see so many North Sea Region projects as well as projects funded through other programmes and mechanisms.  The complex task of looking after the European seas needs to be addressed from many different angles and at different levels. The Maritime Day helps create mutual awareness and synergies between all these initiatives.

Interact’s Knowledge of the Seas Network had a joint Interreg stand including the North Sea Region programme and other Interreg programmes dealing with maritime aspects.  The main purpose of this network is to bring these Interreg programmes together to exchange knowledge, expertise, and results. In Lisbon, the network had invited  maritime stakeholders for informal discussions  to connect Interreg to the bigger maritime picture. 

These meetings  provided the possibility for an exchange between maritime Interreg programmes and projects, even including actors from beyond the Interreg community such as representatives of Horizon 2020 and Fisheries Local Action Groups.

Engaging with stakeholders at the joint Interreg stand.

Jenny’s personal highlight was  the world première of the Knowledge of the Seas Network’s movie on the added value of maritime Interreg cooperation. The movie takes you on an impressive journey through the range of topics tackled by Interreg maritime projects.  Can you spot our NorthSEE and North Sea Wrecks projects in the movie?

Having worked for 3 years on managing the UK Climate Programme, Vanessa’s highlight was definitely  seeing the climate adaptation lecture being kicked off by the IPCC vice-chair Thelma Krug. Some headlines were particularly stark: We need to move energy production towards the marine resources, rethink food systems, and protect blue ecosystems.  And quickly.

The IPCC panel had some strong messages for the audience.

A North Sea perspective

Several North Sea Region projects were featured at the European Maritime Day. DUAL Ports even had their own stand showcasing best practice of how ports – a crucial part of blue growth – can help achieve the EU decarbonisation strategy, one of the key European objectives in focus at the event.

DUAL ports contributes to minimising regional entrepreneurial ports’ environmental footprint through a shared eco-innovation port programme.

The talk on Maritime Spatial Planning was particularly interesting for the North Sea Region community, with the project SEANSE highlighting their North Sea Portal. This portal aims for a coherent approach to Strategic Environmental Assessments in the North Sea at a time when North Sea countries are preparing marine spatial plans, with a focus on renewable offshore energy in the North Sea. It features three related projects including the North Sea Region project NorthSEE.  

The workshop on marine litter was also very interesting. We learned that plastics account for most ocean debris, with 20% coming from ocean-based sources, mainly fishing and aquaculture. Talks and discussions stressed the importance of tackling the problem from different angles and at different stages. 

An inspiring group discussion demonstrated conflicts at sea in a fun and engaging way. Each participant was assigned a stakeholder role (government, fishing and aquaculture, ports, educational institutes, and SMEs). The outcome was that everyone started to accuse the other party!

Yolanda Schmal of the North Sea Commission also presented the Commission’s draft marine litter action plan and called for the regions to facilitate change and lead by example.  One example of a successful action is the Fishing for Litter project led by KIMO (Municipalities for Sustainable Seas) which successfully enlists the help of fishermen and harbours to collect rubbish at sea.  

Between the two days, there was a networking evening at Lisbon’s beautiful Marine Museum:

Concluding thoughts

Fact is that a lot of aspects go hand in hand and need to be tackled transnationally. It was very encouraging to see the scope and diversity of ongoing transnational initiatives showcased at this event. 

Meanwhile, we should all start with ourselves and make a small contribution to keeping our sea basins healthy – this is something we can do in our day-to-day lives.

To finish, a classic brought out the feelings of the audience about the key challenges ahead; what are your thoughts on future maritime challenges?

National Contact Point Vanessa Pilley (left) and Project Advisor Jenny Thomsen

This is the first joint blog article written by a North Sea Region Programme Project Advisor and National Contact Point!

Alongside the learning, it was also a great time, and we would recommend the Time Out Market if you find yourself Lisbon-bound…

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