October 29, 2014
Karmenu Vella Becomes New European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
BY: Brianna Elliott
Last week, the European Parliament voted to confirm Karmenu Vella as the new Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission, which will be headed by President Jean-Claude Juncker. Oceana is encouraging Vella to adopt strong leadership as he leads the European Union’s efforts to rebuild sustainable fisheries, protect the marine environment, and guarantee that sustainability is central to the “Blue Growth” strategy. The new team of Commissioners will begin their five-year term on November 1.
Vella is set to face the most important challenge facing European seas: restoring them to a healthy and productive status by 2020. Oceana hopes that combining the environment and fisheries will bring a fresh momentum to European policy.
“Healthy oceans are indispensable for Europeans because they provide us with food, jobs, and vital ecosystem services such as climate regulation. They are also part of our cultural identity and natural heritage; our legacy to the future,” Oceana in Europe executive director Lasse Gustavsson said in a press release. “We encourage Mr. Vella to follow the path initiated by his predecessors Damanaki and Poto?nik to maintain the health of our seas as a top priority. This is the only way to ensure the livelihoods of coastal communities and to preserve and sustainably use our natural resources now and in the future.”
Vella committed himself to build upon progress made by soon-to-be former Commissioner Maria Damanaki, including continuing the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, implementing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and considering deep-sea mining only after thorough scientific analysis, among other developments.
For the past five years, the European Union has committed to restore European fish stocks, ban discards, stop haggling over yearly fish quotas, and introduce long term fisheries management plans. Harmful fisheries subsidies have been curbed and the fight against IUU has taken off on a worldwide scale. Similarly, the importance of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive that aims to ensure Good Environmental Status of Europe’s seas by 2020 has been recognized. Its proper implementation is seen as fundamental towards mitigating the detrimental impact of all human activities on our oceans, for instance through the designation of new marine protected areas.
The effective implementation of EU environmental legislation will be a test for the new Commissioner, says Oceana in Europe, but Vella’s public statements to prioritize this and not tolerate any infringements are a good beginning to his new mandate.