WestMED National Event in Tunisia advances development of a Blue Economy Strategy

The National  Hub Tunisia of the WestMED project, funded by the European Union, organized on June 30, 2020 in Tunis, the national event on ” The blue economy in Tunisia” which brought together more than 100 people including government officials, the European Union delegation in Tunis, companies, associations,  academics and researchers.

The purpose of this event was to advance the WestMED project and to support Tunisia in developing a sustainable blue economy strategy based on modernising traditional sectors such as fishing, tourism, maritime transport … and promoting emerging sectors such as marine biotechnology, aquaculture, pesca-tourism, clustering, exploitation of of fish products and renewable energies linked to the sea, etc.

At the opening of the event, and after the presentation of the WestMED project by the National Hub Tunisia, Mr. Chokri Ben Hassen, Tunisian Minister for the Environment, Ms. Sophie Vanhaeverbeke, head of cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union in Tunisia and Mr Sabri Chaabani, national coordinator of the project underlined their common vision of a sustainable blue economy in Tunisia and the Mediterranean. A modern blue economy based on an alliance between the states bordering the Mediterranean. An alliance for the implementation of the road map of the “Green deal”, the European green pact promulgated by the European Union in response to the economic crisis that we are going through with Covid19.

The speakers recalled the many maritime assets of Tunisia including more than 1,650 km of coastline, a maritime area of ​​135,000 km2, a very large infrastructure in commercial ports and fishing ports, a quite varied maritime and port professions, an active artisanal fishing fleet, a very developed seaside activity and the majority of foreign trade (95%) which transits by sea.

However, several weaknesses need to be addressed. They concern in particular the fragility of sensitive maritime areas, the density of international shipping traffic not far from the coast, with potential risks of accidents and pollution and poor coordination between the many stakeholders in the sea.

Elements of an integrated maritime policy and a blue economy strategy have been proposed with action plans for several sectors. These plans were the subject of a very rich debate with a strong intervention of the civil society which insisted on the need for the protection of the environment against the pollution of plastics, ships and industrial waste and to face illegal fishing, especially off the Mahdia-Gulf of Gabes area

Finally, speakers supported the idea that Tunisia can benefit from all sectors of the sustainable blue economy. It can thus transform its development model with research, investments for economic, social and environmental activities with high added value offering numerous opportunities for qualified jobs. They insisted on cooperation with the European Union and other international institutions to make this objective a reality.

2020 Blue Economy Report: Blue sectors contribute to the recovery and pave way for EU Green Deal

The European Commission published on 11 June “The EU Blue Economy Report 2020”, providing an overview of the performance of the EU economic sectors related to oceans and the coastal environment. With a turnover of €750 billion in 2018, the EU blue economy is in good health. There were also 5 million people working in the blue economy sector in 2018, representing a significant increase of 11.6% compared to the year before. Although sectors such as coastal and marine tourism, as well as fisheries and aquaculture are severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the blue economy as a whole presents a huge potential in terms of its contribution to a green recovery.

Source: European Commission

Read the Press Release and access the report and other material here.


Throughout the world, the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are facing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a view to sharing information among its countries and facilitating a reflection on future responses, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) has conducted a preliminary analysis of the impacts of this crisis on the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region.

The analysis was carried out from the beginning of the crisis, on the basis of available information. The main sources used included responses to a questionnaire circulated by the GFCM to its countries, direct consultations with relevant partners, media articles and digital posts published from 1 March 2020.

It clearly emerges from this analysis that the COVID-19 crisis has had an effect on fisheries and aquaculture production as well as on markets for fisheries and aquaculture products. The extent of the impacts and the measures taken have varied from country to country and are constantly evolving.

The main findings are outlined here.

Signature d’un accord de partenariat entre le Cluster Maritime Tunisien et le cluster italien Blue Italian Growth

Un accord de partenariat a été signé aujourd’hui 9 juin 2020 par Cluster Maritime Tunisien (CMT) et le cluster italien Blue Italian Growth (BIG).

Cette signature a été réalisée lors d’une vidéoconférence à laquelle ont assisté l’ambassadeur italien en Tunisie, des représentants de la Commission Européenne, des représentants de la co-présidence italienne et marocaine de WestMed, le directeur général de l’aquaculture et de la pêche en Tunisie, les deux présidents des deux clusters et plusieurs de leurs membres, le gestionnaire du projet WestMED et les deux hubs nationaux Tunisie et Italie.

Ce partenariat, concilié et facilité par l’initiative WestMED et les hubs nationaux Tunisie et Italie, rentre dans le cadre de la mise en réseau des clusters ouest méditerranéens.

Une telle coopération permettra aux deux clusters de faciliter les relations entre leurs membres afin de mener au montage de projets dans de nombreux domaines relatifs:

  • aux systèmes intégrés d’observation et de prévision,
  • aux systèmes et méthodologies de planification et d’utilisation durable du milieu marin,
  • aux technologies d’atténuation et de compensation des impacts,
  • à la défense des côtes et des ports et à la requalification environnementale,
  • à la pêche et l’aquaculture, à la biodiversité et services éco systémiques,
  • aux approches technologiques pour une économie circulaire dans la pêche et l’aquaculture.

Cette association va également mener à la création d’une plateforme de coopération tuniso-italienne sur l’intelligence bleue et l’échange d’expériences et de compétences visant à favoriser l’implantation des académies bleues et des centres de formations professionnelles des métiers de la mer et des échanges des technologies de communications pour la promotion et le développement des activités de la mer.

Commission publishes first annual EU report on CO2 emissions from maritime transport

This article was first published here on 25 May on DG CLIMA’s website. 

The European Commission has published the first annual report on CO2emissions from maritime transport. The report analyses the CO2emissions and energy efficiency information of all the ships over 5,000 gross tonnage, which performed maritime transport activities related to the European Economic Area (EEA) in 2018. Emissions reported by 11,600 ships have added up to over 138 million tonnes of CO2emissions in that year, representing 3.7% of total EU CO2emissions according to the European Environment Agency’s greenhouse gas emissions data.

This annual report is based on data from emissions in 2018, reported by companies until September 2019 under the EU Regulation on monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of CO2 emissions from maritime transport. The data and report will be published each year, to allow a better understanding of the characteristics, CO2 emissions and energy efficiency of the monitored fleet.

The report shows that around two-thirds of the reported CO2 emissions are related to voyages to or from a port outside the EEA. Voyages inside the EEA represented only 32% of total CO2 emissions, and emissions from ships in EEA ports stood for 6% of total emissions. When comparing CO2 emissions across different ship types, container ships represented the largest share of total emissions, with over 30%.

The technical energy efficiency of the monitored fleet is generally comparable to that of the world fleet (except for small-size container ships). Most of the monitored fleet already meets the global energy efficiency standards applicable over the period 2020-2025. In terms of operational energy efficiency, the vast majority of ships have reduced their speed compared to 2008 (by -15 to -20%). Cruising at lower speeds saves energy and fuel, and can significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Since 2018, the EU Regulation on monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport (Regulation (EU) 2015/757) requires shipping companies to monitor their CO2 emissions, fuel consumption and other relevant information during navigation to or from ports in the EEA, when they transport cargo or passengers for commercial reasons.

The 11,600 ships monitored under the EU legislation represent 38% of the world merchant fleet (above 5,000 gross tonnage) and cover a large variety of ships from roll-on/roll-off passenger ships to bulk carriers, tankers and container ships. They are relatively young (11 years old on average), but there are large age disparities between ship types.

CO2 emissions data and energy efficiency information of all individual ships are publicly available on THETIS-MRV, the web-based database developed by the Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The transparency of the system and the granularity of the reported data is key to addressing market barriers and stimulating the uptake of energy-efficient behaviours and technologies.

More information:

Covid-19: European Commission approves €20 million Portuguese credit line scheme to support fishery and aquaculture sectors

The European Commission has approved a Portuguese scheme to support the Portuguese fishery and aquaculture sector, through the provision of loans worth up to €20 million at subsidised interest rates to small and medium-sized enterprises struggling with the Covid-19 Pandemic effects.

This credit line scheme will help these companies cover their immediate liquidity needs and continue their activities.

Further information is available here.

Routine monitoring of Mediterranean boats and marinas could help protect ecosystems from invasive alien species

This article was first published in the Science for Environment Policy biweekly News Alert. It is fully available here.

A survey of over 600 private boats docked in marinas throughout the Mediterranean showed that 71% are carrying non-indigenous species. In certain cases, non-indigenous species can become ‘invasive’ and have enormous and long-lasting impacts on ecosystems. The findings suggest that a common monitoring strategy may be necessary to prevent further disruptions to natural ecosystems.

The Mediterranean Sea is a marine biodiversity hotspot, inhabited by over 17 000 species. The sea’s sunny climate and beautiful coastlines makes it a popular destination for private boats and yachts, which flock to its numerous marinas from April to November each year. But these boats, which originate from all over the world, bring with them non-indigenous species, which, if they become invasive, can disrupt ecosystems, threaten biodiversity and harm aquaculture operations. Alien, or non-indigenous, species can include plants, algae and jellyfish, and animals such as worms, crabs and barnacles, all of which can attach to the underside of boats in a process known as biofouling. Previous studies have shown that invasive species are the largest cause of animal and plant extinctions over the last 500 years, yet despite this there are currently no regulations in the Mediterranean governing the transmission of non-indigenous species (NIS) through boats, although the issue is currently under consideration by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) .

To better understand how NIS are brought into the Mediterranean, scientists examined the hulls of over 600 private boats docked in 25 marinas across the Mediterranean, from France to Cyprus. They also surveyed the owners of the boats to find out how long they had been travelling, where they had previously been and the last time they cleaned and/or painted their vessels. They found that 71% of the boats tested carried at least one NIS, with snorkellers finding nonindigenous annelids, molluscs, tunicates, crustaceans and bryozoans on the hulls, ladders and propellers of the surveyed yachts. One vessel contained as many as 11 NIS. In contrast, studies from the northeast Pacific Ocean show that only 25% of recreational vessels carry NIS. The number of NIS identified by this study is likely to be a conservative estimate, since microbes and algae were not examined.

Boats with the highest number of NIS were smaller vessels (which tend to travel at slower cruising speeds), which had not been professionally cleaned for a long time. Boats that had docked in eastern Mediterranean marinas also contained more NIS, suggesting that this is a high risk area for the spread of NIS, mostly due to its proximity to the Suez Canal, a major vector in introducing new species from the Indo-Pacific seas and the Red Sea. Interestingly, colonisation of NIS occurred rapidly, with mobile species such as crustaceans, appearing just days after boats had been cleaned.

The study provides strong evidence that the richness of NIS present on yachts, coupled with their extensive travel, has caused the spread of NIS to marinas around the Mediterranean. The study found that marinas contained a greater diversity of NIS than boats, probably because they are visited by many yachts from different regions. For example, Karpaz Gate Marina in Cyprus had only been in operation for four years at the time of sampling, and was already hosting 17 NIS, which probably arrived via recreational boats as this marina is far from other sources of introductions (such as ports and aquaculture sites).

Early detection of a non-indigenous species is important to be able to stop it from becoming invasive in local environments. To counteract the spread of NIS, the researchers recommend that in the future both marinas and vessels are routinely monitored for new species. Ideally all 22 countries bordering the basin would follow a common strategy, including screening all incoming vessels from new countries, especially those emanating from high-risk areas. This would echo the approach of other countries. New Zealand requires all incoming vessels to be free of biofouling; Australia also has guidelines for biofouling and in-water cleaning for recreational vessels; and, in the United States, California recently issued a regulation to minimise biofouling.

Boats entering through European canals and the Turkish Straits travel through fresh- and/or much lower salinity water, and NIS on board would have a much lower chance of survival. As such, policymakers may wish to focus initially on entrances via the higher-risk Strait of Gibraltar and Suez Canal, ensuring that effective screening techniques and applicable quarantine measures are in place for incoming vessels.In addition, the researchers recommend that boats undergo frequent cleaning, especially in inaccessible and often overlooked metallic areas such as ladders and propellers, where invasive species are known to accumulate.

WestMED : Towards a Maritime Innovation Technologies Platform

WestMED organized on the 16 April a Hackathon dedicated to Maritime Innovation Technologies Platform.

picture of container with behing a shore and wind farms

A container ship leaving a harbor. Shutterstock/Bohdan Kovtyk


Technological Innovations for an improved management of the sea

Technological innovations have emerged through time in relation to high-techs and digitalization (e.g. smart devices, robotics, informational computing, big data, marine “internet of things- IoT”, machine learning, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine interaction).

Such innovations could be effectively channeled to ensure smart, interoperable and efficient management of data and information (following the FAIR principles), which may positively impact a number of relevant marine and maritime activities (e.g. maritime spatial planning, maritime observation, surveillance, modelling and monitoring, climate change impacts analysis and scenario building and sectorial decision-making purposes amongst others).

A platform to enhance cooperation on KETS and R&D

In such efforts, the WestMED Initiative organized a series of Hackathon type meetings amongst which Hackathon n4 discussed and assessed the potential for a Mediterranean-wide Maritime Innovation Technologies Platform (Med-MIT) or similar actions and/or projects that could allow for greater cooperation between clusters, research/technological centres, institutions and sectorial actors.

This Maritime Innovation Technologies Platform would aim at fuelling the urgently needed collaborations that could effectively channel Key Enabling Technologies and R&D Topics under one same umbrella towards the achievement of a sustainable Blue Economy in the Mediterranean (WestMED priority) and those related SDGs. The innovation supply chain provided by the platform would serve as an advisory service towards obtaining more risk-informed and data-based decision-making processes.


logo of COST, the European Cooperation in Science and Technology

COST is the European Cooperation in Science and Technology Organisation


First ideas collected and next steps agreed during the digital Hackathon

With this purpose, on 16 April 2020, a group of 30 participants gathered virtually in a first webinar so as to discuss the possibility for creating this Mediterranean-wide Maritime Innovation Technologies Platform as well as to discuss other concrete project ideas and proposals.

The meeting targeted technological and high-tech organisations, clusters, businesses, agencies, data providers, computing facilities and centres, research facilities, investors etc. The final participant list is available below.

In order to move along with the potential creation of this Maritime Innovation Technologies Platform the purpose is to apply to the forthcoming COST Calls (Deadline 29 October 2020). This platform would gather all Maritime Innovation Technologies along the following topics:

  • Digitalization of the Sea: Big Data (Real-time data collection, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, advanced analytics, interoperability)
  • Advanced manufacturing: Digital manufacturing (digital twin, additive manufacturing, 3D printing…) – lower production costs
  • Advanced manufacturing: Automation (Robotics, sensorics, photonics, AI, …) (light, easy to use devices for environment and structure monitoring, as well as innovative services, e.g. remote access to protected sites, crowd science)
  • Advanced and smart materials (high strength, lightweight, cost effective recyclable and reusable materials, intelligent materials with self-healing or self-cleaning properties, with sensing capabilities, with properties that change with locations – New materials reducing their environmental impacts. New concept designs within a circular economy approach
  • Micro and nano electronics: MEMS, INS, labs on chip for marine chemistry and biology (they pave the way to the development of cheap, light, low power consumption devices)
  • Internet of things-IOT, Internet of actions-IOA, Digital Security
  • Spatial planning platforms and DSS –  to maintain the sustainability of the resources
  • Fisheries Management & resources (Technological improvements of boats, energy savings and energy efficiency, discards management, fishing management, catch selectivity and process automation, fishing gear and bait optimization, traceability improvement)
  • Ocean Energy – wave, tidal, otec
  • Industrial Marine Biotechnology (Bio marine – sea foods, seaweeds for food, fuels and drugs – new sources of food, fuels and drugs)
  • Deep Sea Mining
  • Smart and autonomous shipping
  • Marine Litter

The potential role of each partner was also discussed at the Hackathon.

Next Steps for submission were also discussed, such as the creation of the consortia, a more concrete definition of the working groups (topics, tasks, etc.) and a timeline to be fulfilled towards submission. Next meeting of the consortia is envisaged by end of June 2020.

More information

Belgium WestMED Initiative Coordinator & Central Team & National Hubs
United-Kingdom Greenbackers Investment Capital
Italy Italian National Research Council (CNR) / Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – Institute of marine engineering
Italy Maritime Technology Cluster FVG
Italy DLTM (Liguria Cluster of Maritime Technologies)
Italy Planetek
Italy University Polytechnic of Turin
Libya General Authority For Marine Wealth
Malta University of Malta
Mauritania STARFISH
Portugal Qualiseg
Portugal EcletikPigment, Lda
Spain Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)
Spain Catalan R+D+I Maritime Network / Xarxa Marítima de Catalunya
Spain Directorate General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs-Gov. of Catalonia
Spain Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena / CORI
Spain Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Unión Europea y Cooperación
Spain Ministerio de Pesca y Agricultura
Tunisia Tunisian Maritime Cluster


Launch of an interactive tool to map initiatives addressing small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea

Source: MedPAN

An interactive online tool has been implemented to map initiatives and projects addressing small-scale fisheries (SSF) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region.

This mapping tool has been developed by the GFCM, in collaboration with the Friends of SSF partner organizations: the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative, the Black Sea Advisory Council (BlSAC), CIHEAM-Bari, the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) and the Mediterranean Advisory Council (MEDAC).

The mapping tool seeks to:

  • Give visibility to past, ongoing and future projects addressing SSF in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region
  • Build synergies among these projects and support the scaling up of results at a regional level
  • Track progress being made in line with the Regional Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region (RPOA-SSF), ensuring all relevant contributions are captured
  • Identify gaps in implementation and areas/topics in need of investment

You can contribute to this mapping tool with your project information!

The tool is most useful when it is as complete and up-to-date as possible! We, therefore, encourage you to give visibility to your past, present or future projects addressing SSF by completing this form.

Questionnaire: Addressing the Covid-19 impact in Mediterranean MPAs

Source: MedPAN newsletter


The coronavirus outbreak is causing an unprecedented global health emergency and a global economic slowdown. Across the globe, MPA communities are sharing challenges and approaches on how to address the virus impact on MPA planning and management. We would like you to share your approaches with the MedPAN network so that they can benefit others and we have thus prepared a short questionnaire.

Go to the questionnaire.