Tuesday, 20 May 2008

European Maritime Day

Today sees the launch of the first European Maritime Day to celebrate Europe’s maritime heritage and marine-related issues. The idea behind it is to help raise awareness of Europe’s maritime heritage, the importance of Europe’s seas and coastal regions and the economic importance of our maritime industries and sectors and to try and reverse the decline in the number of people taking up jobs in the maritime sector.

The day was marked by the signing of a declaration in Strasbourg, a debate in the European Parliament on the Commission’s proposals for an integrated maritime policy for Europe and in Brussels by a conference with stakeholders. I went along to some of the conference with much of the focus of the discussion on the regional approach in implementing the EU’s maritime policy. Also speaking was Scotland’s Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead who arrived straight from his meeting in the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Photo: European Maritime Day at the European Commission, Brussels

I hope to see Scotland playing an active part in Europe’s annual maritime day in the future, not only by marking it with a programme of events across Scotland’s coastal communities and linking it in with those of other European maritime nations but also using it as an opportunity to showcase the vital role the marine environment plays in the past, present and future of Scotland and as a way in which to revitalise Scotland’s port towns and cities, and encourage more people into the industry.

Scotland’s contribution to Europe’s maritime sector over the years cannot be overstated with our shipbuilding skills, fishing, marine energy (oil and gas exploration) and even now as we look to the future with the development of marine technologies (through innovation and research), protection of the environment and biodiversity and the development of and investment in coastal tourism. According to the first ever report on the state of Scotland’s seas, the seas around Scotland’s coastline generate around £2.2 billion of marine-industry activity (excluding oil and gas) and provide approx. 50,000 jobs in Scotland.

Given our past and present maritime experiences, there is much Scotland can contribute to these ongoing discussions about the future of Europe’s maritime sector and the challenges it faces when it comes to energy security, climate change, protecting the marine environment, etc. I want to see Scotland at the forefront of these discussions, sharing experiences and best practice and leading the way.

Photo: With Rob Gibson MSP at Avoch Harbour

No comments: