The CPMR took part in the Blue Economy Week from 25 to 28 March 2019 hosted by Reunion Region at the MOCA Culture and Arts Centre in Saint-Denis. This large-scale event, organised as part of the EU co-funded OCEAN METISS project, gathered together Institutional, academic, economic and political actors from around the world (United States, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Seychelles, Madagascar, Kenya, etc.) as well as from the national and local levels, and provided the opportunity to showcase the unique development potential for the blue economy in Reunion Island.

Didier Robert, President of Reunion Region, welcomed the participants and underlined “the essential role of the outermost regions as a cornerstone of the EU’s blue economy”. As mentioned by the CPMR during the event, other European maritime regions have also launched their strategies to develop the maritime economy, such as Catalonia, Pays de la Loire and the port of Piraeus. The Reunion Region, which represents the EU’s gateway to the Indian Ocean, is stepping up its action and efforts to develop this promising and vital sector for sustainable economic growth.

The island offers a wealth of opportunities, and many topics related to sustainable blue economic development were discussed over the four days. The CPMR took part in discussions on ocean governance and recalled the leading role that regions can play in this area. It will be drawing together the new commitments expressed by its member regions at the next “Our Oceans” event in Oslo on 23 and 24 October 2019.

The CPMR also spoke about the revision of the Territorial Agenda 2020, which offers the opportunity to look again at the impact of blue growth, especially economic spatial concentration trends and the role of EU financial instruments, such as the European funds for strategic investments and the Blue Invest platform. The CPMR will be organising a seminar on this topic at its General Assembly on 16-18 October 2019 in Palermo, Sicily.

During its event, the Reunion Region highlighted the development of new maritime sectors and the attractiveness of maritime professions, innovative solutions to secure and treat shark risks through international cooperation, how to develop tourism through cruise activities, and innovation in the context of the blue economy. Amaury de Saint-Quentin, Prefect of Reunion, especially stressed how innovation can become an economic lever: “Reunion can and must become Europe’s advanced research platform in marine sciences. It is the future of the sector which is at stake here.”

In this context, the OCEAN METISS project aims to develop a blue strategy for integrated maritime spatial planning in the South-West Basin of the Indian Ocean and brings together the relevant actors from within the area.

The Global MSP Forum organised by IOC-UNESCO and the European Commission which coincided with the event brought together maritime spatial planning experts to share their experiences and best practices, to open new areas for consideration and support the OCEAN METISS project. The CPMR also shared its experiences from the SIMNORAT and SIMWESTMED projects.

The event also saw the launch of the “Blue Institute”, chaired by Marie-Noelle Sinama Valliamé, which will bring together local stakeholders with a common goal of developing the blue economy. The Reunion Region faces many challenges and harbours a more ambitious vision to develop its maritime activities by successfully exploiting the economic potential offered by the sea. Its main seaport can become a key international player and remains France’s and the EU’s gateway to the Indian Ocean. The Region has set responsible targets for fisheries development with a forward plan for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The importance of protecting biodiversity and preserving marine ecosystems also remains a core part of this goal and will ensure that this economic development project can be promoted over the long term. Efforts are being made to improve the attractiveness of maritime professions, particularly through the creation of a maritime high school. Finally, the development of marine renewable energies will make it possible to use the island’s potential in tidal, wave, wind and thermal power. Exchanges between CPMR regions on these subjects will also allow Reunion to take advantage of expertise from other sea basins.

In a social context where the Region’s unemployment rate stands at 24% and where young people account for 39% of the number of jobless, new opportunities related to the blue economy offer promising prospects for this island with so much potential.

The CPMR, working through its Islands Commission, will continue to support the Reunion Region in its actions for blue growth and in events planned under the OCEAN METISS project, like this week’s productive discussions on the Blue Economy.