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Marine Science



International Ocean Governance at the helm! International Ocean Governance (IOG) plays a crucial role in fostering healthy oceans, halting the loss of biodiversity and fighting climate change. The EU is committed to strengthening the resilience of ocean and of the societies and economies depending from them.

In 2020, the EU launched a consultation on the scope and objectives of International Ocean Governance with specific questions on the policy fields and actions under each of the three pillars identified in the 2016 joint communication.  A majority of respondents supported the overall objective to ensure clean, healthy, safe, secure and sustainably used oceans, while calling for adding elements such as “resilience” and climate change.

The results of the consultation are available online.

The consultation complements two major IOG events which took place in 2020 (April and December), with a series of thematic in-depth discussions that enabled stakeholders and experts to provide valuable input, in line with EU core values and actions.

The final meeting of the IOG forum will take place in April 2021. This will be the opportunity  to see how to strengthen the EU’s key role for improving IOG, by shaping recommendations into concrete and ambitious actions.


What is international ocean governance?

International ocean governance is about managing and using the world’s oceans and their resources in ways that keep our oceans healthy, productive, safe, secure and resilient.

Today, 60% of the oceans are outside the borders of national jurisdiction. This implies a shared international responsibility. Under the overarching UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a plethora of jurisdictional rights, institutions, and specific frameworks have been set up to organise the way humans use these waters.

EU action on international ocean governance aims to build on this framework and work with others to improve the health of this resource which is open to all States.

Why do we need to take action?

Healthy oceans are essential for humankind: as climate regulators, as a source for global food security, human health and as an engine for economic growth. The OECD estimates that ocean-based industries contribute roughly €1.3 trillion to global gross value added. Oceans are also home to a rich, fragile, and largely unexplored biodiversity, which provides a variety of important ecosystem services. For instance, oceans produce half of the oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere and absorb 25 per cent of C02 emissions.

However, with a world population reaching 9-10 billion by 2050, pressures on the oceans are expected to increase. Global competition for raw materials, food and water will become more intense, while illegal fishing, piracy, climate change, and marine pollution are already threatening our ocean’s health. In addition, the blue economy heavily depends on the global economy and global rules.

After consulting governments and various other ocean stakeholders, the European Commission concluded that the existing framework for international ocean governance was not effective enough in tackling these shared challenges. The Joint Communication adopted in November 2016 seeks to redress this. As a strong global actor, the European Union sets out its response for better ocean governance, calling for a cross-sectoral, rules-based international approach.

What has been done so far?

The European Union has been championing determined action for our oceans even before adopting the Joint Communication. In the past 10 years alone, the EU has:

– adopted a holistic approach to all marine and maritime issues: the EU integrated maritime policy;

– put in place a robust set of mandatory environmental rules to ensure EU maritime actors use marine resources sustainably, wherever they operate;

– developed an EU-level strategy to boost sustainable and inclusive blue growth, including blue economy considerations in external policies as regards natural resources, energy, trade, development and security;

– put in place regional strategies to address common challenges and opportunities, collaborating closely with non-EU countries and stakeholders from civil society and the private sector;

– earmarked about €350 million a year for marine research, improving cooperation and information-sharing, and making maritime data publicly accessible;

– engaged in international and cross-sectorial forums to address the common challenge of ensuring safe, secure, clean and productive seas and oceans worldwide.

– adopted the EU maritime security strategy a comprehensive common tool to identify, prevent and respond to security challenges