National event Tunisia with Salem Miladi on stage

WestMED National Event Tunisia 2023: Blue economy education and training

The WestMED National event on the blue economy in Tunisia 2023,  took place in the building of the Municipality of Sfax (the country’s second largest city) on 29 September 2023.

The event was organised by WestMED’s Tunisian National Hub, in partnership with the University and Municipality of Sfax. It was opened by the Minister in charge of the General Secretariat for Maritime Affairs, the First Head of the Municipality and the Vice-President of the University of Sfax.

The event brought together around fifty people representing the various blue water activities, regional officials, academics and civil society. They spoke extensively about marine ecotourism in Tunisia and discussed the impact of the development of blue water activities on the environment.

The presentations also highlighted the effects for blue economy training and education in Tunisia.

M. Salem Miladi (National Hub Tunisia) listed the training needs in the thirteen activities of the blue economy, making a distinction between traditional and promising, upcoming sectors (Blue Biotechnologies, Renewable Marine Energies, Desalination, Yachting, Water Sports and Leisure) which are in demand, for highly qualified jobs.

He proposed far-reaching reforms to higher education and vocational training in order to develop these promising sectors and reduce the problem of unemployment among higher education graduates in Tunisia. The blue economy could be an opportunity for Tunisia to shift its development model towards these promising sectors.

The second part of the day was devoted to work in six groups relating to fishing, marine biotechnologies, the valorisation of sea products, aquaculture, tourism and the desalination of sea water. Students from the University of Sfax also took part in these groups. The recommendations can be summarised as follows:

  • Further develop these sectors and create new job opportunities.
  • Promote fishing by protecting it from illegal practices and using modern methods to increase production.
  • Create specialised institutions in the field of marine biotechnologies by creating mechanisms to encourage the creation of projects in this field, particularly for young people.
  • Enhance the value of seafood products, particularly those intended for export, in order to capture greater local added value.
  • Promote aquaculture by diversifying this activity by breeding other species and using the most modern techniques to optimise food and reduce waste in order to preserve the environment.
  • Vary the Tunisian tourism product and opt for sustainable tourism and encourage pescatourism.
  • Develop seawater desalination to reduce the effects of water scarcity and climate change, while avoiding the impact of salt build-up.
  • Reduce the negative effects of these activities on the environment and equip itself with the most recent and modern means to achieve this objective.
  • Popularise the concept of the blue economy and environmental protection, particularly among children and young people.

For more information on the day and its outcomes, contact our National Hub Tunisia (Salem Miladi):

Read the announcement and the agenda of this event

Visit the WestMED country page Tunisia

Download Salem Miladi’s presentation on Blue Economy education in Tunisia – based on a study related to 13 sectors:

screenshot first slide powerpoint presntation with title




speaker on stahe during WestMED National event Tunisia 2023 in Sfax

students presenting outcomes of working group dusring WestMED National event Tunisia 2023 in Sfax

speaker on stage during WestMED National event Tunisia 2023

WestMED National Hub Tunisie partage ses connaissances au Forum Mondial de la Mer 2023 à Bizerte

“Le Hub National Tunisie (Salem MILADI) a assisté vendredi 22 septembre 2023 au Forum Mondial de la Mer à Bizerte consacré à l’Océan et la Méditerranée : à l’air de l’ébullition.

Cette édition intervient après l’épisode caniculaire dramatique de l’été 2023 et la déclaration du Secrétaire Général des Nations Unies qui a récemment sonné l’alarme sur ce que nous pouvons qualifier d’ère de l’ébullition climatique.

Plus de quarante experts ont intervenu sur ce phénomène alarmant qui nécessite une attention immédiate et des actions concrètes. Leurs communications étaient axées sur quelles sont nos aspirations pour l’Océan en 2050 et comment la Méditerranée évoluera-t-elle dans les décennies à venir et quelles sont les mesures qui doivent être prises pour la protéger. Dans dans son intervention, le HN Tunisie a rappelé que la Méditerranée est une mer quasi fermée qui représente moins de 1% de l’Océan et elle est bordée par 21 pays qui compte 400 millions d’habitants et abrite une grande diversité biologique.

Toutefois, cette mer subit une pression qui est en augmentation par la surexploitation des ressources marines, l’accroissement des pollutions relatives aux particules fines dégagées par les navires, aux eaux usées urbaines, aux rejets industriels, aux déchets plastiques , aux pesticides et aux impacts des changements climatiques et le manque d’eau potable.

Le Hub National a rappelé le rôle du projet Westmed, qui regroupe dix pays de la méditerranée occidentale, à promouvoir une croissance bleue durable et ce dans le cadre de six groupes consacrés :

  1. Au transport maritime vert avec la substitution du fioul lourd par une énergie propre.
  2. A une pêche et aquaculture durables en proposant la lutte contre la pêche illicite et la maitrise et l’utilisation des smart technologies dans les différents maillons de la production aquacole pour lutter contre les déchets notamment de la nourriture.
  3. A la création de clusters maritimes notamment dans les pays de la rive sud.
  4. A l’élaborant un MSP pour chaque pays pour éviter un développement spontané des activités maritimes difficilement gérable.
  5. Au développement d’un tourisme durable garantissant une gestion durable de l’eau et de l’assainissement et encourageant l’utilisation des énergies renouvelables et les infrastructures durables et innovantes et enfin :
  6. A la promotion de la formation pour subvenir aux besoins en main d’œuvre pour les secteurs bleus prometteurs

Le Hub National a conclu son intervention par un appel à sauver la Méditerranée par l’engagement des pays à l’élaboration d’un plan d’actions détaillé et programmé dans le temps.

Le Forum de Bizerte était en duplex avec Marseille et New York (Nations Unies) et était suivi en ligne par plus de 12 000 personnes »

Pour plus d’informations, contactez le Hub National WestMED (Salem Miladi):


we are blue schools announcement poster with children on paddleboards in a bay

WestMED success story on Ocean Literacy and Blue Skills. ‘We are Blue Schools’ making waves from the classrooms up!

There are many jobs in the maritime sector that cannot be filled due to the lack of trained professionals. To change this, the right groundwork needs to be established at a very early age.

Ocean literacy and Blue Skills are two sides of the same coin that holds the key to this. They are fully intertwined. Enthusiasm for the ocean, drives interest in blue education and careers.

Next to a focus on the young, as ocean aware citizens and being essential for meeting tomorrow’s blue employment demands, there is also a great need for up-and reskilling of the current maritime workforce. Sustainability, digitalisation, and innovation are now required more than ever.

In 2016, the Commission already recognised these challenges when they created a ‘blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills’, with maritime technologies as one of the core sectors. 

During the WestMED 2023 Stakeholder Conference, Frederico Ferreira, the Portuguese National Hub for the WestMED and the Atlantic, also confirmed the importance of addressing these fields. He highlighted the benefits of cooperation as it is a common theme across borders and sea basins. Not only to promote the overall attractiveness of blue careers, but also to ensure standardisation of educational qualifications and accreditations for a more flexible mobility of workers, to stay on top of an increasingly demanding market. 

A sustainable blue economy starts with Ocean Literacy

Ocean Literacy is defined as the understanding of the ocean’s influence on us, and of our influence on the ocean’. The Ocean Literacy concept has been empowered by many institutions, including the UNESCO and the European Commission.

In 2019, EU Directorate-General Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) launched the European Ocean Coalition ‘EU4Ocean’ aiming to “connect diverse organisations, projects and people that contribute to ocean literacy and the sustainable management of the ocean.”

‘We are Blue Schools’ (Som Escoles Blaves) from Mallorca, winner of the WestMED best project 2023 award, shares this philosophy. They promote Ocean Literacy by bringing the ocean into the classroom for students aged three to eighteen. The approach used, shows a high success rate, and offers considerable replicability potential.

A blueprint for Ocean Literacy amongst the next generation. Meet ‘We are blue schools’. 

‘We are Blue Schools’ is an Erasmus+ pilot project that brings environmental awareness and sustainability skills to young people in schools by teaching them the value of the ocean and the influence they have on the ocean.

It is based on the insights of a wide range of international Ocean Literacy experts.

Mallorca was chosen for this project as it is a confined area with shared values, culture, and language. This, to test the effects of an intensified approach in a regional setting to create a higher impact on both the schools and their surrounding communities.

The objectives are twofold:

  1. Successfully implement an inclusive and comprehensive EU Blue School Network in the confined regional area of Mallorca over the short term of 12 months and certify 100 schools by creating a true grass-roots approach that includes teachers, schools, and the local community (with NGOs, SMEs, local governments and the media)
  2. Document this approach and create a Blueprint that enables other EU and non-EU regions to follow this example and successfully recruit a large Network of European Blue Schools.

Christian Burgos project coordinator for the initiative and a secondary school teacher himself, is proud of the results achieved so far and confident about reaching the ambitious goal: “we have certified more than 60 schools, each of them with a page in the EU maritime forum, we have involved 5 NGOs to do environmental activities, 10 SMEs who are happy to help by sponsoring costs and 5 public institutions who want to help with the implementation of the projects. We have also been invited multiple times to spread the word of the project on regional radio and television shows and have more than 1.000 followers on social media”.

As it is a pilot project, it has been built from the start as a project to be replicated with a Blueprint. Talks are already underway with schools and institutions in Spain and Morocco.

When receiving the WestMED project award in Malta, Christian put out an open invitation: “We are happy to collaborate, for our approach to be replicated in other regions.  Please contact us so that we can share our model that has shown to be working.”


More info about We are blue schools
Budget Overall: approx. 65.000€

EU Contribution: €30 000

Partners/ Countries Coordinator: Sea Teach (Mallorca, Spain)


Es Lledoner (Mallorca, Spain)

CLUBE (Portugal)

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Duration 1 October 2022 – 31 October 2023


1) European Commission:

2) Ocean Literacy Portal (UNESCO):



Corallo Stakeholder event july 2023 with Professor Alan Deidun

Ocean Literacy digital tools highlighted during CORRALO’s stakeholder event

Sources: Diving info MaltaInterreg Italia-Malta

On 20 July 2023, the National Hub Malta attended a stakeholder event hosted by the Corallo project in Zurrieq, Malta.

CORALLO supports the dissemination and use of the natural heritage through a diverse range of edutainment tools and non-intrusive infrastructure interventions within Natura 2000 (N2K) sites.

Through the project, state-of-the-art educational services and facilities are developed in each of the target sites, including extensive use of virtual and extended reality as well as documentaries and short video clips. In addition, the iconic species and habitats encountered at each of N2K’s target sites will be exhibited in different centers identified for intervention, thus capitalizing on the unique strengths and resources held by each site.

The CORALLO project also provides mobile awareness tools, i.e. scientific campaigns for citizens, a boat of project information, smartphone apps and games and online tools, which will allow to reach a wide range of end users.

Initiatives developed
During the event, project coordinator, Prof. Alan Deidun from the University of Malta, provided an overview of the initiatives developed to present the Natura 2000 marine sites to the general public, including people who are unable to go underwater themselves.

  • 60 degree video footage of the underwater environment for use in conjunction with VR headsets
  • 3D models of Filfla, St. Paul’s Islands and Qawra Point
  • 3D models of various marine species
  • 3d Stand-up digital banner showing marine species
  • Production of Educational TV spots that were found to be very effective with the older generations that were aired on the national broadcaster in prime time
  • Events at various locations and presence at public events
  • Interactive totem at Ghar Dalam
  • A publication titled: “Correct enjoyment (and awareness raising) of Natura 2000 locations”
  • Information boards at various Natura 2000 sites
  • Upgrades at the Dwejra Interpretation Centre
  • Corallo Mobile App (still in development but to be launched soon)

Main conclusions:

  1. Visuals motivate people. However, through feedback gained from the public, via citizen engagement and awareness events held under the auspices of this project, it has been noted that taking a more positive approach, such as showing people the beauty of the marine environment, may be more effective at engaging citizens than exposing them to negative images. Because of social media, people are becoming desensitized to negative images.
  2. It has also been noted that there is limited awareness of the environmental impact by users on Natura 2000 sites, yet there are several opportunities for educational and responsible enjoyment initiatives. Furthermore, it is observed that the use of social media for citizen engagement is crucial, yet considerable resources in time and money need to be mobilized in order to be able to maintain the momentum.
  3. Long-term citizen-science campaigns may play a dual role of awareness-raising as well as long-term data collection shared by the public via the app, that would of marine developments. It may also serve as a means for the general public to influence policy-making.

During his presentation Professor Deidun also highlighted Corallo’s presence at the WestMED Stakeholder Conference 2023, with an exhibition and presentation.

Main next steps foreseen

  1. Different actors, both scientific and non-scientific, need to work together to create an educational plan, potentially focusing on the education of children, as it has been noted that the general public is willing to engage.
  2. Look into the potential of ‘getting the sea where the sea doesn’t exist’ such as to hospitals, care homes and prison, through the use of interactive digital tools.

For more information visit visit the Corollo website
Read their booklet with information on the project and the sites

Corollo Project is part-financed through the EU Interreg Italia-Malta Programme

Corallo robot at Lets dive in stakeholder event July 2023


CIPON approves national plan of the sea in Italy

Italy’s Interministerial Committee for Sea Policy approves National Plan of the Sea

Source:  website Ministro per la Protezione civile e le Politiche del mare
Date: 31 July 2023

Italy has its own National Plan for the Sea. It was approved this afternoon by Cipom, the Interministerial Committee for Sea Policy, which met at Palazzo Chigi under the chairmanship of Minister Nello Musumeci.

The Plan for the Sea, envisaged by Article 12 of Legislative Decree 173 of 2022, is the planning tool that the government and parliament will use to launch a unitary and strategic maritime policy.

It was drafted after several months of comparisons and hearings, by a special committee of experts, with the main public and private players operating in the “sea system” and, according to the law, must be updated every three years. This afternoon’s approval of the document was attended by representatives of the Defence, Infrastructure, Environment, Culture, Finance, Agriculture, Tourism, European Affairs, PNRR, Foreign Affairs, Enterprise and Made in Italy, and Regional Affairs Ministries.

The National Plan for the Sea will be forwarded to the government and parliament.

“The first important step has been taken,” said Minister for Sea Policies Nello Musumeci, “Italy, according to the government’s objectives, intends to look at the sea beyond the horizon with new eyes, increasingly attentive to its protection and enhancement. I would like to thank my government colleagues from Cipom, the Committee of Experts coordinated by Luca Salamone, and all the associations and individuals, both public and private, who have provided their essential contribution of ideas and proposals”.

L’Italia ha il suo Piano nazionale del mare. Lo ha approvato questo pomeriggio il Cipom, il Comitato interministeriale per le politiche del mare, riunitosi a Palazzo Chigi sotto la presidenza del ministro Nello Musumeci. Il Piano del mare, previsto dall’articolo 12 del DL 173 del 2022, è lo strumento di programmazione di cui si dotano governo e parlamento per avviare una politica marittima unitaria e strategica. È stato redatto dopo alcuni mesi di confronti e audizioni, a cura di un apposito comitato di esperti, con i principali attori pubblici e privati che operano nel “sistema mare” e secondo la norma di legge, dovrà essere aggiornato con cadenza triennale. All’approvazione del documento, oggi pomeriggio, hanno partecipato i rappresentanti dei dicasteri Difesa, Infrastrutture, Ambiente, Cultura, Finanza, Agricoltura, Turismo, Affari europei, PNRR, Esteri, Imprese e Made in Italy, Affari regionali.
Il Piano nazionale del mare verrà trasmesso al governo e al parlamento.

”Il primo importante passo è stato fatto – ha dichiarato il ministro per le Politiche del mare Nello Musumeci – L’Italia secondo gli obiettivi del governo intende guardare al mare oltre l’orizzonte con occhi nuovi, sempre più attenti alla sua salvaguardia e valorizzazione. Desidero ringraziare i colleghi di governo del Cipom, il Comitato degli esperti coordinato da Luca Salamone, e tutti i soggetti associativi e singoli, pubblici e privati che hanno fornito il loro essenziale contributo di idee e proposte”.

WestMED Success Story: EMFAF Flagship Projects Accelerating Tourism Sustainability

The popularity of the Mediterranean sea and its coastal regions amongst tourists remains at an all time high. After a temporary covid dip, the latest figures show that numbers of tourists have already reached pre-pandemic levels and are further on the rise.

Traditional model no longer viable

Traditional ‘sun, sea and sand’ tourism has resulted in improved livelihoods for many local communities, averaging 11.5% of total employment in Mediterranean countries. It is therefore, one of the leading sectors of the economy in the region.

At the same time, it also puts tremendous pressure on the environment. Mass tourism is one of the main causes of increased pollution and a driver for uncontrolled building along the coastlines. This, coupled to a growing demand for water, food and energy and the structurally rising temperatures (sea and land), severely impacts the region’s resources, and is therefore not viable in the long run.

Additionally, these same pressures lower the attractiveness of tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.

Sustainable blue economy at the heart

The European Commission is actively addressing many of these issues to safeguard the connection between economic welfare and the environment with the ‘Sustainable blue economy’ concept.

This has been an ongoing process since 2013 – as part of the Commission’s targeted approach for several European Sea basins with dedicated blue strategies for the Atlantic (Atlantic Action Plan), the Black Sea (Common Maritime Agenda) and the Western Mediterranean (WestMED Initiative).

Flagship projects lead the way

In 2021 the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) decided to fund so-called flagship projects (pilot strategic initiatives) for each of the sea basin strategies with 5.5 million euro to accelerate achievement of their respective goals.

For the Western Mediterranean the main objective of this EMFAF flagship funding  was to ‘strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of the coastal and maritime tourism sector, as part of a smart and resilient blue economy – one of the key goals of the WestMED Initiative.  This, by preserving the marine and coastal environment as well as marine cultural heritage, and contributing to the attractiveness of coastal areas by means of ecotourism, digitalisation and mobilising private-public investments.’

Eco-tourism, cross-border cooperation and multiplying results

Given the fact that tourism plays such a significant role in the Western Mediterranean as one of the key contributors to both the upside gains as well as the downside risks of the blue economy, three projects that function as a catalyst for change, were selected for co-financing.

All three are focused on enhancing eco-tourism in the region, cross-border cooperation (including non-EU WestMED countries as partners such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania) and actively sharing knowledge amongst stakeholders from both the northern and southern shore, to multiply results.

These projects are also examples of the rapid development and transformation of the tourism industry to a more modern sector by adopting digital platforms, digital marketing and information technologies such as the internet of things, augmented reality and virtual reality.

The three  Flagship projects:


This project boosts new managerial, blue, green and digital skills to pave the way for an eco-friendly, zero-impact cruising sector.

The project designs innovative, sustainable and smart theme-based cruising packages targeting Millennials and Gen Z, aimed at minimising the impact of large groups of visitors.

The project also develops and delivers a specialised capacity building programme, enabling cross-border cooperation, exchange of good practices and unlocking new business opportunities around the eco-cruise sector.

The target group consists of small and medium sized companies in the West Mediterranean area, as well public and private stakeholders in charge of the promotion of EU and West European coastal and maritime destinations.

According to project coordinator Marika Mazzi Boém from X23, the company leading the project, the timing after Covid is critical for the cruise industry to reinvent itself:

“Rather than focusing on strategies to grow tourism, what we need now is to implement actions for containing mass tourism in favour of sustainability. So innovation is key at different levels: in technology, to increase environmentally friendly practises and reduce carbon footprint; in the travel experience, as personalization is a must; and in business modeling, to bring tangible economic and social benefits to local communities”.

More info about ECO-CRUISING FU_TOUR
Budget Overall: €990 222

EU Contribution: €792 178


Partners/ Countries Coordinator: X23 The Innovation Bakery (Italy)

Italian Tourist Board-ENIT (Italy)

Celestyal Ship Management (Greece)

Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (Cyprus)

Green evolution (Greece)

Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Tunisia-CCIT (Tunisia)

Leancubator (Algeria)

Tanger City port management Company – SGPTV (Morocco)

ASCAME (Spain)




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Duration 1 September 2022- 31 December 2024


This project supports local tourism SMEs and involves them in the creation and delivery of eco-tourism packages targeting the growing school-trip tourism market.

It will do so, by creating immersive ‘learning by visiting’ school trips for the ‘new generations’: primary and secondary school students in three age ranges; 6-10 years, 11-13 years, and 14-16.

Schooltrip tourism is beneficial as it not only helps to reduce seasonal peaks but also diversifies the market, increasing awareness of the value and vulnerability of Western Mediterranean marine ecosystems, coastal destinations and culture.

Claudia Iglesias, Project Design and Policy Specialist from X23 is clear on the benefits of this approach:

“Benefits will go two ways: children will have the opportunity to learn, by visiting beautiful landscapes and to contribute preserving the fragile and unique ecosystems; and local tourism SMEs will be actively involved at destination, crucial players to the new value chain that we want to create”.


More info about EU WeMed_NaTOUR
Budget Overall: €995 270

EU contribution: €796 683

Partners/ Countries Coordinator: X23 The Innovation Bakery (Italy)

Turismo de Portugal (Portugal)

Travel without plastic (Spain)

Office National de Tourisme – ONTM (Mauritania)

International Social Tourism Organisation – ISTO (Belgium)

Italian National Tourism Board-ENIT (Italy)

Balearic Marine Cluster (Spain)

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Duration 1 July 2022 – 31 October 2024


REBOOT MED (Recovering, Experiencing and Boosting eco-tourism in the WestMed area) is a project that encourages public-private partnership, co-defining Blue Economy Action Plans for the Recovery of the tourism sector, and to incubate, accelerate and test eco/blue economy tourism products and packages in Mauritania, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, Italy and France.

This is done by engaging local multi-stakeholder clusters that have been created in 6 WestMed countries and 10 pilot areas as well as accompanying ecotourism ideas to be tested in real conditions.

Tommaso Scavone, project designer and project manager from Petra Patrimonia Corsica, is proud of the results achieved so far:

“We are demonstrating that when citizens, public stakeholders and private actors are willing to co-develop long-term visions, it is possible to activate sustainable processes at all levels. On the ground there are several ideas and initiatives carried out by pioneers – women, youth, start-uppers – looking for collaboration and partnerships: all of them are linked together by a ‘fil rouge’ that is “the love for their territories. And we as partners are there – on the ground – to support all of them and to try together to reboot ecotourism in the WestMed area!”


More info about Reboot Med
Budget Overall: €1 200 000

EU Contribution: 999 380

Partners/ countries ·         Coordinator: Coopérative Petra Patrimonia Corsica (France)

·         PRISM Impresa Sociale s.r.l. (Italy)

·         Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions-CPMR (France)

·         F.A.R. Maremma (Italy)

·         WWF Med (Tunisia)

·         Balearic Islands Tourism Agency (Spain)

·         Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tanger-Tetouan- El Hoceima (Morocco)

·         Diawling National Park (Mauritania)

·         Association of Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry – ASCAME (Spain)

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Duration 1 September 2023-31 August 2024


presentation at AquaBioTech site visit on June 23, 2023 in Malta

Aquaculture Collaboration in the Mediterranean – site visit at AquaBioTech

This site-event, back to back to the WestMED Stakeholder Conference took place on June 23, 2023, at the AquaBioTech Group in Malta.

The event was organized by AquaBioTech Group with the aim of showcasing ongoing Mediterranean aquaculture projects, objectives, and achievements in line with  WestMED’s AquaWest Technical Group goals.

The event focused on addressing the specific challenges of the Mediterranean sub-regions, exploring innovation perspectives, and establishing synergies between business ecosystems, academia, research performing organizations, and regulatory frameworks.

Three experts from WestMED Assistance Mechanism: Thanos Smanis, Leonardo Manzari and Samir Bachouche

The event started at 09:30 am and concluded at 12:30 pm. It began with a series of engaging presentations that provided insights into ongoing projects and initiatives aligned with the priorities of the WestMED Initiative.

These presentations aimed to foster collaboration between the established AquaWest Technical Group and Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) across the Mediterranean region, promoting expertise, sharing and bridging research, innovation, and diversity across generations of experts and stakeholders.

In addition to the presentations, participants had the opportunity to explore AquaBioTech Group facilities through a guided tour to gain firsthand knowledge of the infrastructure and technologies used in their aquaculture operations.

One of the main outcomes of the meeting was the identification of innovative solutions to address environmental challenges associated with aquaculture.

Participants discussed the implementation of advanced technologies and best management practices to minimize the industry’s ecological footprint and enhance resource efficiency. Additionally, the event highlighted the importance of strengthening partnerships between research institutions and industry players to drive innovation and facilitate the adoption of sustainable aquaculture practices.

Furthermore, the event provided a networking session that aimed to facilitate developing future collaboration frameworks between businesses, research institutions, and policymakers in the WestMED region.

The networking session served as a platform for participants to exchange ideas, explore potential partnerships, and discuss opportunities for advancing the aquaculture sector in the WestMED region. This to drive the development of the aquaculture sector and contribute to sustainable growth.

AquaBioTech site visit with group picture of participants

Ministers and high level representatives at WestMED branded table for the WestMED Ministerial Declaration 2023 in Malta on June 23

WestMED countries re-commit to further develop a sustainable, resilient, decarbonized and circular blue economy for the Western Mediterranean.

On 23 June 2023, ministers and high-level representatives from the 10 WestMED countries (Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia) met in Malta together with representatives of the European Commission and the Union for the Mediterranean in order to  reassess and update the priorities stated in the WestMed Framework for Action as supported by the WestMED Initiative.

It follows the countries’ reports and the EC report evaluating the WestMED Initiative’s implementation so far, that listed as one its main recommendations to ‘reconfirm and streamline priorities.’

These priorities focus on addressing common sea basin challenges, resulting in a joint commitment to further develop a sustainable, resilient, decarbonized and circular blue economy, address climate change, adapt to its effects and halt i.e. reverse marine biodiversity loss.

This is the 3rd WestMED Ministerial Declaration with the first one being drafted in Naples 2017, inviting the WestMED countries to explore the added value and feasibility of appropriate maritime strategies, including at subregional level, and build on existing multilateral processes such as the 5+5 Dialogue and relevant UfM Ministerial Declarations.

On December 4, 2018 the countries adopted the 2nd  WestMED Ministerial Declaration in Algiers approving the governance and management structure for the implementation of the initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean (incl. the creation of the WestMED Assistance Mechanism) and the roadmap that contained 6 priorities.

Four years later, with this new 2023 declaration, the countries renewed and adjusted their commitments to the following priorities:

  • Sustainable production and consumption, and in particular, through the support of the transition of Maritime Transport, Green shipping, and Ports towards carbon-neutrality and zero emission and ports as hubs for energy; Innovative and restorative aquaculture and fisheries  and Coastal and maritime eco-Tourism.
  • Maritime Clusters
  • Blue skills and jobs
  • Ocean literacy and youth
  • Promoting Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP)
  • Decarbonisation of the blue economy and, importantly, boosting the Marine Renewable Energy sectors
  • Stepping up the efforts to tackle air and marine pollution
  • Increasing ambition for preserving marine and coastal biodiversity in the Mediterranean
  • Promoting training and technology transfer
  • Developing coastal resilience solutions and early warning systems
  • Maritime security and surveillance as a pre-condition for a prosperous and sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean.

The declaration provides a renewed political commitment towards the sustainable management of the Mediterranean together with their efforts to recover from the Covid-19 crisis and tackle the serious impacts of climate change and environmental degradation while reinforcing the regional cooperation in the UFM region on Sustainable Blue Economy.

Through the Declaration, the countries also acknowledge the work done so far under the WestMED Initiative and highlight the need for synergies with other Sea Basin Strategies (the Atlantic Strategy and the Common Maritime Agenda for the Black Sea).

They welcome this new joint sea basins approach for a coordinated technical assistance which started at the end of 2022.

This new EU sea basin approach allows not only addressing the needs of each individual sea basin but also exchanging best practices and organizing national and regional events with themes that have clear cross-seabasin relevance, such as blue skills, blue investments, green shipping, and sustainable aquaculture.

The 2023 WestMED Declaration is fully in line with the 2nd UfM Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Blue Economy adopted on 2 February 2021 and its related Roadmap for implementation. It is also fully aligned to the EC Communication on the sustainable approach to the Blue Economy in the EU, from May 2021, which addressed the transition from ‘Blue growth’ to a ‘Sustainable Blue Economy.’

Mr. Aaron Farrugia (Malta – Minister for Transport Infrastructure and Capital Projects) and Mr. Mohamed Ould Abidine Ould Maayif (Mauritania – Minister for Fishery and Maritime Economy) opened the Ministerial Conference as co-presidencies of the westMED Initiative.

Their opening remarks were followed by Ms. Charlena Vitcheva (European Commission – Director General for Directorate General Maritime Affairs and Fisheries – DG MARE) and Mr. Almotaz Abadi (Union for the Mediterranean – Deputy Secretary General for Water, Environment and Blue Economy).

Watch the opening remarks  below (courtesy of the Maltese govt):

Read the Ministerial Declaration in full

The Ministerial Conference, under the guidance of WestMED’s Maltese Co-presidency, was organised back to back with the 2023 WestMED Stakeholder Conference that took place the previous day.

Ministers from WestMED countries and high level representatives, posing for the WestMED 2023 branded banner

Maritime Clusters workshop at SeaFuture 2023 with speakers at table in a conference room

WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliance presenting major achievements and developments at SeaFuture 2023

LaSpezia, 8 June 2023

With the support of the WestMED (WM) Assistance Mechanism and the Italian national clusters CTN BIG and Federazione del Mare, the Maritime Clusters Alliance organised an event during SeaFuture 2023 in LaSpezia Italy focused on the WestMED Maritime Cluster Alliance

The main objective was to provide an overview of the cooperation among maritime clusters that are part of the WestMed Maritime Cluster Alliance (WM MCA) after two years since its inception- including:

  • jointly created, submitted and awarded projects requesting funding;
  • the significant impact on the southern shore dynamics (thanks to the proactivity of the Cluster Maritime Tunisien and the establishment of the Mauritanian Marine and Maritime Cluster);
  • the intensified Italian-Portuguese cooperation;
  • the inclusive approach of CTN BIG and Federazione del Mare towards the Mediterranean ecosystem as a whole.

Daniele Bosio and Luca Palazzo, WestMED National coordinators for Italy highlighted the importance of the Maritime Clusters Alliance Alliance towards the creation of a real Mediterranean ecosystem, particularly for a country like Italy that is currently preparating its first national strategic “Piano del Mare” (Plan for the Sea), as the main action after the establishment of the newly formed  ‘Ministry of the Sea and Civil Protection.’This Ministry is going to coordinate the competencies thgat is currently spread over 13 ministries.

Also, the inclusive role of Italy during its WestMED co-presidency was underlined, particularly for its embedding effort, to let regional and INTERREG managing authorities adopt WestMED priorities in the new 2021-2027 programmes and workplans.

Manuel Pleguezuelo (EC-DG MARE) reminded the priority given by DG MARE to the Maritime Cluster Alliance, considering the already achieved results, highlighting the work of the dedicated WestMED Workgroup and the role to include the outcomes within the recent EMFAF call that expired in late January 2023.

Adriana Salazar Olivan presented the role of the Union for the Mediterranean role in support of the WestMED Initiative, putting in evidence the impact that theresults achieved are having on the broader scenario of the whole Basin. This is witnessed by the involvement of Turkish, Greek, Egyptian, Jordan, Croatian etc organizations within the partnerships supported by the WMAM.
This has confirmed the validity of the Assistance Mechanism concept, as a “bottom-up” team, supporting and staying beside stakeholders instead of above.

Shaun Patrick Ebejer (Malta) confirmed the importance that the Maltese co-presidency is giving to the topic of clusters, also for the benefit of its small but vital ecosystem. Not for a case, the interaction with the Italian clusters is growing and the two countries are possibly joining forces for a common national event in October.

Main Achievements of the WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliance and its members
Among the multiple achievements of the WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliance, Anja Detant remarked the attention that the European Commission and CINEA paid to the opening the EMFAF calls to third countries, particularly those of the WestMED sub-basin, and to the priorities of the WestMED Technical Groups and Work Groups.

Hamadi BABA HAMADI, summarized the process and the importance for his country towards such a move, as a starting point to fully integrate Mauritania in the common ecosystem and tighten cooperation with northern and southern WM countries. The centrality of the Fishery sector, of Maritime Transport and of Blue Skills are indicated as priority for Mauritanian dynamics and networking activities with the Mediterranean stakeholders.

On June 9th in Rome, the president of the Mauritanian Marine and Maritime Cluster has signed an MoU with the Italian national clusters, aiming at a closer cooperation, including the research activities.

Emna Sohlobji, in her position of secretary general of the CMT (but also as elected Leading Woman in African Blue Economy) has witnessed the boost that her cluster gained in EU funded projects, but also in the capacity to provide internationalization opportunities to their associated members, for the benefit of the national Blue Economy. A bright example was illustrated as the MEBLEUE 2022 speeded up this process, with the concrete cooperation cases fostered among training institutes, research institutes, ports etc.

Ruben Eiras, secretary general of Forum Oceano and National Hub for Portugal, presented the Hub Azul Dealroom (a comprehensive digital stakeholders’ platform), a service that is part of the larger Portuguese strategy for the Blue Economy and the need to enable a faster matchmaking between innovators, policy makers, promoters and investors. The Dealroom is a tool at disposal of the WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliance, to enlarge networks and foster new knowledge and partnerships.

Laurence Martin and Thanos Smanis, presented the European Blue Forum that was launched during the recent European Maritime Day in Brest, and the key role that maritime clusters will be playing there too.

ForMare, Forum Oceano, CTN BIG, Strategis Cluster, SGD4MED, Federazione del Mare, Pole Mediterranée described concrete project proposals  that have been supported by the WestMED Assistance Mechanism to apply for funding – also with the perspective of possible capitalization actions. Most of these proposals were approved: ERASMUS+ – MARMED and MAQUAM, COSME Euroclusters – MedBan, IKAT and ELBE Alliance, EMFAF Women in Blue Economy – WINBIG, EMFAF Maritime Clusters CALLMEBLUE and Green Marine MED, EMFAF Ports & Maritime Transport POWER4MED.


Established cooperation agreements and synergies

Antonio Novo Guerrero, founder and president of the European Clusters Alliance (ECA), and Axelle Salvage fromEuropean Network of Maritime Clusters (ENMC) explained the efforts undertaken by the WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliance in liaising with their leading aggregations of clusters

The fruitful exchanges with ECA are now aimed at integrating networking agendas reciprocally, enlarging cross-sectoral exchange opportunities for WM MCA members and open the Blue specialization to the ECA. ENMC at their end, recognises the importance of the WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliamce as a way to gain more direct access to and interact with a broader spectrum of maritime clusters within the Mediterranean region, and its Assistance Mechanism.

Finally Walter Wassallo, promoter of the Blue Marina Award (that recognises Italian marinas for their coherence with sustainable Development Goals-SDG’s), presented the second edition of the awards to be held in Trieste in 2023 and is already looking at its cross-border Mediterranean scope from 2024 on, thanks to the technical assistance of the Italian National Hub in close cooperation with National Hub colleagues from the WestMED countries.

Conclusions were then summarized by the intervention of Giovanni Caprino, President of CTN BIG, and the remote intervention of Matteo Bocci, who coordinates the WestMED Maritime Clusters Alliance together with WestMED’s Italian National Hub.

Along these conclusions also the opportunities represented to increase exchanges with Black Sea and Atlantic Sea Basins’ stakeholders were underline, as a further contribution to the internationalization strategies and synergies of the“WestMED Maritime Clusters Community”.

collage of University of Malta representatives at the WestMED stakeholder conference 2023

Three different projects involving the University of Malta presented at WestMED stakeholder conference

Source: website University of Malta

The BlueSchoolsMed, CORALLO and ANDROMEDA projects, which all feature the University of Malta as a partner or even as a Coordinator (as in the case of the CORALLO project), were all recently presented at the high-profile WestMED Stakeholder Conference.

Prof. Alan Deidun, resident academic within the Oceanography Malta Research Group (OMRG) of the Department of Geosciences, and Prof. Mark Mifsud, resident academic within the CEER (Centre for Environmental Education and Research), presented, as panellists, the BlueSchoolsMed project. The Blue Schools network, which forms part of the EU4Ocean Coalition, seeks to foster a greater element of ocean literacy within schools by encouraging them to pursue marine educational activities, so-called ‘Blue Challenges.’ These Blue Challenges are co-created between educators, students and project partners and could address any thematic related to the sea, including food from the ocean, climate and the ocean, landscape and ocean, a healthy ocean, migration and the ocean, maritime culture and heritage as well as communication and the ocean. Once designed, Blue Challenges need to be implemented within the school in question, with its impact being evaluated on a regular basis, leading eventually to the formal Blue Schools recognition. In November 2022, the first batch of four Maltese schools joined the network.

The WestMED stakeholder Conference was held on 22 June 2023 and was open to all stakeholders that are contributing to improve the sustainable blue economy in the region, featuring business owners, entrepreneurs, NGOs, scientists, investors, lecturers, local and regional authorities and policy-makers. This year’s focus was on the four main thematic areas that the WestMED Initiative actively supports: Sustainable Aquaculture, Green Shipping and Ports, Maritime Clusters and Marine Spatial Planning. During the same conference, the CORALLO and ANDROMEDA projects were also showcased through an ad hoc stand and demonstration held on the margins of the conference set up by Dr Adam Gauci, from the OMRG. Prof. Deidun, in his vest as Board member of the EU Commission’s Mission Starfish, also had the opportunity to meet up with Ms Charlina Vitcheva, Director General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission.

Read full article (website University of Malta)