- AZTI-Tecnalia holds a conference on the “Blue Economy”
- Aquaculture, tourism, biotechnology and energy are the maritime sectors with significant development potential.
(Bilbao, 16 April 2013) The blue economy –the one linked to the sea and its resources– represents a great opportunity for Europe’s development and economic growth. This became clear during the “Green Innovation-Blue Growth. Sustainable Seas and Oceans” conference which AZTI-Tecnalia organised within the framework of the Sinaval Eurofishing Fair. The event served to highlight some of the local initiatives that are being carried out within the blue economy, such as off-shore aquaculture, fishing as a viable and sustainable activity, seaside leisure or the quest for new biological marine resources. The conference was opened by Bittor Oroz, the Basque Government’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, highlighting the contribution of fishing to growth.
The conference focussed on the five strategic sectors that the European Commission has established to promote its Integrated Maritime Policy. These hubs are maritime tourism, the mining of mineral marine resources, aquaculture, marine bio-prospecting and renewable marine energies. These strategic hubs represent “an opportunity that could contribute towards overcoming the current crisis,” according to Lorenzo Motos, Head of AZTI-Tecnalia’s Marine Research Unit. The expert is committed to applying innovation and research in these sectors as a way of contributing towards its sustainable and profitable development.
The activities related to the sea offer enormous growth potential and currently employ 5.4 million people throughout the European Union, according to the European Commission’s data gathered in its report entitled: “Blue Growth: scenarios and drivers for sustainable growth from the oceans, seas and coasts”. This supreme European body calculates that this figure could rise to seven million people by 2020, while the gross added value provided by the sectors related to the sea could increase from the current €500 billion to close to €600 billion.
AZTI-Tecnalia, along with the Basque Government, champions the European initiative aimed at promoting the maritime activity sectors. The technology centre is committed to research and the search for sustainable opportunities that can help Europe overcome the crisis. The event held today at the BEC forms part of the actions aimed at promoting the blue economy and has attracted a wide audience, made up mainly of fishery agents, the marine aquaculture, the leisure industry and marine biotechnologies, among other activities.
Making use of resources
Eduardo Balguerías, General Director of the Spanish Institute for Oceanography, and Lorenzo Motos, Innovation Director at AZTI-Tecnalia, presented examples of knowledge and technologies applied in support of profitable and sustainable fishery activity. The identification of fishery opportunities based on the assessment of the state of the fishing populations and the definition of sustainable exploitation strategies was one of the examples presented. At the same time, examples were provided of technologies applied to cost savings and reducing the impact of the activities on the ecosystem.
Aquaculture, a booming sector in Europe, also had a place at the conference. Diego Mendiola, an AZTI-Tecnalia researcher and expert on the subject, presented various experiences in off-shore mollusc rearing and fattening. Carlos Foruria, Head of INNOVACT, presented the progress made in the development of an underwater cage prototype for the off-shore fattening of fish, a project promoted by a consortium of Basque companies and supported by the Fishermen’s Guilds. As for marine tourism, AZTI-Tecnalia’s oceanographer, Pedro Liria, presented the Kostasystem experience, an automatic system for monitoring sand by means of cameras that pick up the movements of the sea and sand. It has already been implemented on five beaches in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa.
Making use of the sea as a supplier of products for society as a whole was another of the subjects presented during the conference. The search for and application of new biological and genetic marine resources – known as marine bio-prospecting – may find applications in areas like food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, chemical products and biofuels, as explained by Simon Munt, Manager of Medicinal Chemistry at Pharmamar, and Trond Ø. Jørgensen, head of the Norwegian centre, MabCent-SFI/UiT, Tromsø.
The conference also served to highlight the work of MARNET (Atlantic Regions Marine Network), which aims to assess the Atlantic marine economy through reliable socio-economic data that can be compared with different regions. Another of the new items in the conference was the presentation of the Euskampus Knowledge Hub on Ocean Health and Sustainable Upgrading.
Centre of reference in food and marine research
AZTI-Tecnalia is a benchmark technology centre in food and marine research. One of the aims of this Foundation is to promote the research and study of marine, agri-food, environmental sciences and in general, those related to natural resources and the marine environment. In this context, it helps to improve the efficiency of the fishery sectors, aquaculture, the transformation of fishery products and all those activities that are directly or indirectly related with the use and exploitation of the sea and its resources.