The Portuguese government that took seat in November 2015, defined the ocean and creating value from maritime activities as one of its priorities. Therefore, Ana Paula Vitorino was appointed to the new position of Minister of the Sea, and José Apolinário as Secretary of State of Fisheries.
With Seagriculture taking place in Portugal this year, the Secretary of State of Fisheries was pleased to accept the invitation of DLG Benelux to deliver an opening address. The Ministry of the Sea’s task is to define strategies to maximize the economic returns gained from the ocean, while respecting resource limitations and the cultural heritage that the ocean represents to the Portuguese.
Valuable: A long coastline and a large EEZ
Covering over 1.700.000 km2, Portugal has one of the largest exclusive economic zones (EEZ’s) in Europe. An EEZ is a sea zone over which a state has special rights regarding exploration and exploitation of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
To add to this, in 2009, Portugal filed a proposal with the United Nations to extend the continental shelf, increasing their EEZ from 1.700.000 km2 to around 4.000.000 km2. This extension is expected to take place in 2017, and makes available a large territory of mainly deep and ultra-deep ocean. This offers both opportunities for maritime development projects, and responsibilities for sustainable use of maritime space.
Blue growth is the ambition
The Portuguese ‘ocean economy’ currently represents only about 2.5% of national GDP; the country’s ambition is to make the Portuguese economy of the sea grow with at least 400 million euros by the end of 2019. This “blue growth” should take place primarily in five strategic areas, namely blue energy, aquaculture, tourism, marine mineral resources and blue biotechnology.
Looking at aquaculture, we see a sector in development. In 2011, the sector produced 9000 tonnes, representing a mere 1,5% of domestic fish consumption. In 2012, production capacity had already grown to 15.000 tonnes.
When it comes to algae production, Portugal knows a long history in collecting macroalgae for use as fertilizer, but with the country´s vast coastline and favourable natural and geographical conditions, its potential is huge and largely unexploited.
Portuguese fisheries: A bit of background
Fishery in Portugal is traditional, and characterized by a vast number of SME’s and small vessels with a crew of only one or two people. This ‘artisanal fishing business model’ proves to be less productive than business models employed by other EU-countries: with 10 tonnes per year, the average Portuguese production per fisherman is half of the EU-average of 20 tonnes per year per fisherman]. Expectations of increasing fish catches in the short and medium term are low, so the country focuses on valorising fishing- and aquaculture products through processing. A focus on quality and certification of origin contributes to the competitiveness and internationalization of the sector.
The Seagriculture program represents national, European and global seaweed stories
As Seagriculture is set in such a maritime-minded country, it would be a shame to pass over national research and development. Therefore, after the opening address of Mr. Apolinário, Isabel Sousa Pinto of Porto University will provide the visitors with an overview of regional seaweed projects, and aspirations for the future. After Session 2, focusing on legislation and certification, the floor is for Portuguese researchers pitching their research projects. Helena Abreu of local company ALGAplus will, in session 4, tell us all about landbased seaweed farming in the Aveiro region.
Also in session 4, Frank Neumann of Seaweed Energy Solutions moves the discussion from a national to a European level, in his talk on the challenges and opportunities for upscaling European seaweed farming; something that Olavur Gregersen (OceanRainforest) knows all about. In his talk, Olavur will go into the operational costs of the largest seaweed cultivation farm in Europe. The World Bank’s Randall Brummett will then take the seaweed story global in his talk on seaweed aquaculture for income generation in tropical developing countries.