The blue economy sector contributes approximately 15% of Malta’s overall economy and generates over 27,000 jobs – and 83% of blue economic value added is generated by coastal tourism, said the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia.
Addressing the Fourth Sustainability Summit for South-East Europe and the Mediterranean, organised by The Economist in Athens, during a session titled Innovation and Business Opportunities in the Blue Economy Sector, the minister said that Malta, as a maritime nation, fully acknowledges and embraces the potential benefits of a sustainably managed blue economy.
“It is in this context that we have identified and designated 30% of our waters as marine protected areas whilst strengthening our regulatory and enforcement capacity in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, enhancing the use of technology for monitoring and surveillance purposes”, stated the minister.
He continued by explaining that Malta also has a healthy aquaculture industry and it has established the good practice of collaborating with operators to minimise negative environmental impacts.
“Another circular economy initiative will reduce the number of plastic bottles ending in our seas through a ‘Beverage Container Refund System’ that will see over 80% of containers placed on the market being recovered through ad hoc collection machines spread around the island. In the meantime, the marine litter campaign ‘Saving Our Blue’ aimed at raising awareness about the damage from marine litter, particularly plastic, encouraged cooperation and collaboration with businesses and local communities in the fight to reduce marine pollution”, continued Minister Farrugia.
In Athens, the minister met with Greek Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, as well as other members of the Greek cabinet in a series of bilateral meetings.
Minister Farrugia explained that countries which are heavily reliant on the blue economy are developing new business models, going sustainable and departing from a linear towards a circular economy. The challenges we are facing are clear: pollution, the depletion and overexploitation of resources, food security for an ever-growing population, rising temperatures and more. That is why innovators, corporates, investors, governments and researchers are coming together to modernise these sectors.
He also said that the European Commission is investing in cutting-edge research, development and innovation in upcoming and emerging sectors such as marine renewable energy including floating offshore wind farms, wave and tidal energy, and niche industries still being developed such as offshore hydrogen generation and floating solar PVs. He also spoke about the desalination industry which is energy intense and will be needed even more in the coming years as a result of water shortages.
“Doing nothing is not an option. Oceans provide us with half of the oxygen we breathe. The European Green Deal, sustainable development goals and climate change targets will lead the way to a green future”, concluded the minister.