Blue Innovation. You are widely acknowledged as a leader on maritime and environmental matters, notably thanks to the foundation that you established in 2006. What do you think Monaco’s role in this field will be over the years to come?
Prince Albert II. I have always wanted Monaco to pursue its efforts over the long term, ensuring the durability of its message for the necessary protection of our environment. The principality is present on the international stage during important environmental events. I am proud that its voice is heard and that its expertise, notably on matters concerning the protection of the world’s oceans, is recognized. We must continue to unite the world’s efforts and energies, to show the way towards new forms of development that will be equitable for both mankind and nature. My Foundation has been working to realize these goals since 2006. I will continue to share this planet-friendly message, and desire Monaco to be an international platform for these environmental issues—for example during the principality’s increasingly successful Ocean Week.
You attended the 2017 BioMarine Congress at Rimouski in Quebec and met some of the blue economy’s industries and investors. What struck you during this event? Do you think conservation and commercial interests can be combined? In what ways do you think the entrepreneurs you met at BioMarine be a force for change?
These regular meetings with companies during the BioMarine Congress help us to better understand the trends, innovations and developments capable of resolving the problems of nutrition, health and the environment. I had the opportunity to see that we are capable of setting up multitrophic aquaculture systems that respect the marine environment. I consider that these co-operative initiatives seeking to develop marine resources in partnership with businesses are part of a design for the future. I am pleased to note that our friends in Quebec have adopted an ambitious action plan to support this blue economy, and I feel sure that the Portuguese, who will be hosting BioMarine again in 2018, will prove to have been just as ingenious in their attempts to turn their blue economy into the spearhead of their future development.
Aquaculture has often been a central theme of the Monaco Blue Initiative. Do you think the model being suggested can enable us to feed the planet while preserving coastal waters?
Aquaculture is a very important issue, particularly as fish and seafood provide over 1 billion of us with our daily proteins. In industrialized countries, demand for aquaculture—and therefore supply—never ceases to increase, while the volume of fish caught in the world’s oceans remains relatively stable. And in this regard, let us not forget that aquaculture’s share of the world’s supply of fish overtook that of fishing in 2014. If the growing demand for fish could perhaps be met by aquaculture, it would in any case be imperative that the latter be carried out in a measured, controlled manner so as to avoid any negative outcomes. The latest Monaco Blue Initiative revealed the possibility of successfully combining aquaculture with the conservation of protected marine organisms and sanctuaries. Sustainable aquaculture is achievable, as long as we ensure the integration of all necessary conservation measures and the involvement of local populations.
Part of your efforts are devoted to the development of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Are you not concerned that the cost of doing so limits their number, notably in developing countries?
Strengthening existing marine sanctuaries and developing new ones requires the creation of innovative financial mechanisms such as the environmental fund for MPAs, particularly in developing countries. Local actors are today aware of the benefits of these sanctuaries, and we must ensure their long-term support. The environmental fund must enable us to maintain ecosystems in good health and to generate economic activities such as environmentally sustainable and responsible fishing and tourism. The recurring cost of maintaining MPAs is indeed quite high, but the latter must be considered on a par with other essential activities such as the monitoring of ecosystems or the development of suitable areas—and the cost of not establishing and maintaining MPAs would in any case be much higher in the long run.
This year, BioMarine set up a consortium of SMEs for the development of bioplastics made of water-soluble, biodegradable marine materials. Your foundation is very involved in the fight against the pollution of the world’s oceans. What message do you think should be addressed to consumers and retailers?
The figures are alarming, and we must all be aware of the problem and take concrete steps. Between 8 and 10 million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea every year, of which single-use packaging accounts for over 60%. Very few bioplastics are currently recycled, and are only truly biodegradable in certain industrial conditions. Consumers and retailers both seem to be waiting for the other to act first. But we need to act urgently to find sustainable alternatives to plastic by making use of more environmentally friendly materials that are degradable in normal conditions and are produced in ways that are less damaging to the environment. We need to change our consumer habits by refusing single-use plastics in favour of re-using certain materials or choosing alternatives that are more sustainable and kinder to the environment. We must be the driving force for change. Industry and large retailers must develop these alternatives and make them available to their customers in order to ensure the circle is as virtuous as possible. It is also vital that we put a stop to the discharge of plastic in the world’s oceans, whose fauna and flora it both threatens. We can no longer afford to be complacent.