Came to Ravenna
Ravenna is a seaside town: the wind that brings the salty taste of the Adriatic to your nostrils tells you so. Yet, as the waterfront has receded over the centuries, the city’s maritime character may not be entirely apparent at first glance. So, walking near the imposing Rocca Brancaleone and the Mausoleum of Teodorico, one has to imagine when they stood on the seafront; wandering today in the green meadows of Classe, at the exit of the city, one must exercise his fantasy to imagine the immense port built by the Emperor Augustus, accommodating up to 250 military ships, which once stood there : before subsidence and siltation brought the sea a way. But the inhabitants of Ravenna, creative and pragmatic Romagnols, did not renounce their deep and historical connection with the sea, and they brought it back to them, building the 8 km Corsini canal, from Marina di Ravenna to the city itself. .
The canal, a lifeline for the city, has grown into a vast industrial center over the past 100 years, and if you sail along the sea (it’s an experience we recommend, and there’s a boat just for this purpose in the Darsena), you will realize its effervescence, pleasure and commercial boats which enter and leave permanently.
This maritime vocation of Ravenna makes it clear why the 2022 edition of European Maritime Day took place there – and an excellent edition of the EMD.
1550 participants (750 physical and 800 virtual, due to the still ongoing COVID restrictions), flocked to the Pala De André in Ravenna to listen and participate in the discussion on the wealth of maritime themes, carbon neutrality, Zero Pollution and circular economy, marine biodiversity restoration and sustainable aquaculture under the umbrella of “Sustainable Blue Economy for a Green Recovery”.
At the crossroads of ocean excellence
The EMD opened with a plenary session and a panel with Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, taking a strong stance on ocean protection and sustainability:
My ambition is to define an updated vision of the EU as a global leader in promoting ocean sustainability in line with the European Green Deal. The ocean is probably our planet’s most important asset. If we don’t protect our ocean, we don’t protect our identity. I am committed to ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.
Bringing together the brightest and most committed ocean minds on the continent, it was also an opportunity to meet fascinating experts, promoting excellence for the future of our seas.
Donatella Bianchi, President of WWF Italy, shared with the crowd her clear position on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). As for her, they are the only way to find the necessary balance of biodiversity. She shared her conviction that to do this, our tools must become more efficient, our MPAs must expand – in particular to include the deep sea, an area that we know is full of rich diversity.
All on the same page determined to protect our seas and oceans, we turned to Dona Bertarelli, UNCTAD’s Special Adviser for the Blue Economy to get His point of view. She highlighted the fundamental nature of the High Seas Treaty (BBNJ – i.e. the protection of ocean biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction) in achieving our goals.
It was indeed a wonderful opportunity to engage with many prominent industry players for EMD TV, as well as for more informal interviews. In this way, we had the chance to speak to WWF Head of Ocean Policy Antonia Leroy, Renata Peloso of Blue InvestAngela Schultz Zehden to talk about EU4Seaweedand to our EUMOFA colleagues.
As we celebrate the European Year of Youth, we had the great pleasure of meeting the brilliant advocates of Youth4Ocean. Commissioner Sinkevičius had the opportunity to talk to them during a morning question and answer session and hear about all their brilliant projects.
Mariasole Bianco, renowned marine biologist and ocean conservationist, and EMD’s lead moderator, summed up her time at EMD: “It was a very positive experience in which we shared a proactive atmosphere of collaboration, and recognized the responsibility to work together across ages, genders and sectors of society to build a better future for our ocean and a sustainable blue economy”
EU Prize in Action
This edition of the EMD focused on ocean literacy, education and awareness: these were the central themes of the EU4Ocean Ocean Literacy Summit, which took place as part of the main event. After more than 2 years of hard work to build the ocean education community in Europe, the EU4Ocean coalition and Charlina Vitcheva, Director General of the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, have awarded 6 prizes to recognize the best among the many initiatives promoting ocean education across the 🇪🇺. The projects supported social learning and critical thinking, had a strong innovative character, a collective dimension, an EU focus and potential for replication, and involved diverse representatives from different communities. This was underlined by Carmelo Isgró, the founder of the Museo del Mare de Milazzo, who highlighted the “participation in the MuMa project, not only of the maritime actor but of the entire local community, which has been essential for its success”. Charlina Vitcheva concluded the award ceremony by looking to the future: “Because of the Decade of Ocean Science that has begun, we need to build on it and do more about ocean literacy; we have started a collaboration with IOC UNESCO, which supports the work that the EU4Ocean coalition has started, showing us the way and helping us establish our Ocean Literacy benchmarks. We are planning with them an official side event on ocean literacy at the upcoming United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June
At the seaside
EMD ended on a high note with the Ravenna Seaside Days, which opened with an impressive aquatic light show, and saw various stands in the Darsena and elsewhere in the city showcasing the richness of the maritime sector and the local food tradition, the latter having kindly been offered to the public by the local FLAG.
But for the DG MARE participants in the Days, the highlight was the visit to CESTHA, the Centro Sperimentale per la Tutela degli Habitat, a non-profit research organization whose goal is the protection of the environment. Its incredible staff, made up of researchers and specialists in the natural sciences, marine biology and veterinary medicine, presented its large number of activities to DG MARE, ranging from the recovery and rescue of marine life (with a strong focus on sea turtles), sustainable fishing, ocean advocacy and awareness. Simone D’Acunto, marine biologist and director of CESTHA, points out that the end goal of their work is “to operate with and with fishermen to make the fishing sector more sustainable”. During their visit to the headquarters of CESTHA, in the historical complex of the old fish market of Marina di Ravenna, DG MARE had the chance to meet two turtles, Lady Gaga and Pongo, which were recovered from the nets of fishermen and nurtured in health with loving care. And then, CESTHA staff took DG MARE out to sea, to give them the unique chance to witness the return of two sea turtles back to their natural environment – an incredible moment which represents, in a word, what what DG MARE aspires to.