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Q&A: A terrible draw-back from EU on biomarine resources!

Pierre Erwes, BioMarine:  The message sent out with the new European commission is totally wrong on governance of marine bio resources.   Photo: Magne Otteral

Pierre Erwes, BioMarine:  The message sent out with the new European commission is totally wrong on governance of marine bio resources.  Photo: Magne Otterdal

Pierre Erwes, is the founder of BioMarine and in charge of the annual global conference BioMarine Business Convention.  This year the meeting is held in Cascais, Portugal.

According to Mr. Erwes the biomarine field has two main challenges for reaching a sustainable future:  The business to consumer relationship and the governance of biomarine resources. In this Q&A Erwes totally disagrees with the message from the EU Commission in Brussels - the governance collapses.

BFM: - What will be the trending topics at the Biomarine Business Convention in Cascais?

PE: For the last 10 months BioMarine has been actively promoting the Portuguese blue strategy as a vector of economic development for Europe and the rest of the world. We strongly believe that Portugal will become a key European country able to demonstrate that this new economy could generate jobs, massive investment and sustainable growth. Norway and Portugal are developing key relationships and collaborative programs reflecting this global vision and we will focus on investment in marine resources, the latest developments in seaweed and micro algae industries, marine ingredients and biomolecules for nutraceuticals, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. 

BFM: - You have organized the annual conference the last five years, what are your reflections on the development of the biomarine business field?

PE: It is interesting to see the viral propagation of the BioMarine’s interest. When I started BioMarine in 2008, we had only a few references on the net. Now everybody wants to be blue and marine something. I hope this is not only a fancy tendency but also rather a deep understanding of what this new industry could really do to feed, fuel and heal the world.

All together our industry represents USD 180 billions a year and I am not including the future development of bioplastic, which will become the next revolution after Internet. My main concern is the sustainable developments of this blue rush. We really need to work on the best practices at all levels.  There is no doubt about the importance of quality and traceability for the final buyer and consumer. The consumer knows already that the worst fish in the world is even better than the best meat but he want to see more. He wants to be reinsured.

BFM: - Parallel to the conference, the BICA general assembly will be held, how many clusters do you see as potential members of BICA around the globe?

PE: Biomarine International Clusters Association is the most important step forward to get our industry organized. We expect 12 clusters and research institutions from all over the world to join this year. They represent over 10,000 companies. Marlife, Norway with North Carolina and Ireland, were the first to jump onboard along with Monaco. This new organization will be very light. The purpose is not to create another international body but rather to connect the players, give them opportunities to foster their international developments, find the right investors, the right R&D partner.

Our BioMarine community is growing very fast and our first road map will be to establish the best practices code. Most probably we will concentrate on the seaweeds industry for the next year as we consider that seaweed is becoming the most important segment for feed, nutrition, cosmetics and bioplastics.  

BFM: - What is the biggest challenge for a sustainable future of biomarine business and industry?

PE: We need to increase the business to consumer relationships. I am not saying that civil society has not a role to play, but I prefer to address the consumer needs and work with them to design the next generation of products that will fit both the sustainable and traceability issues.  The consumer has the real power. If tomorrow he decides not to buy a cosmetic brand because it is not sustainable and / or the packaging does not dissolve it self in the bath, then the company will immediately react and adapt its product to the market.

If we take a look at the governance then I can say it is another challenge. The message sent out from the new European Commission is totally wrong. Definitively the marine bio resources are not on the agenda anymore. In 2008 under the leadership of Commissioner Bjorge, Tiago Pitta e Cunha now Senior Adviser to the President of Portugal has succeed to put marine and maritime on the global agenda. Lowri Evans the last director General from DG Mare has done whatever she could to consolidate the action but now: Everything collapses. This is a terrible drawback.  If you want to stay on the top of the agenda, you better have to focus on immediate issues instead of preparing the future for next generations, whatever! I am not a big fan of these international bodies.

If you look at Europe, Norway, Portugal, Ireland, as a country and Scotland, Aquataine and Britany as leading regions will become the key players in the development of the bio-marine industry. Asia and China specifically is becoming the leading country in marine bio resources. I love this country. They have understood very quickly how to build the momentum. It does not take ages to react and when they decide to move in a direction it’s massive. We always argue about sustainability but Chinese have proven they can also become an example. We expect the country to do in a few years what we have done in decades. Everything changes…

BFM: - Geopolitical development pose new challenges for marine products, as well as innovation, foremost related to the sanctions between Russia and EU/US.  Can BICA play a role in such contexts, to soften effects of rapid changes in the business environment?

PE: I really think that Business will adapt to the situation. Innovation will go on and I don’t see any major threat for the biomarine industry in this temporary blockage. The artic sea has always been a place for competition. When you take a closer look, and despite the fact that it is always very nice and polite, USA and Canada are defending their own interest in a very harsh way. The stakes are so high that it will take some time before we can reach a global agreement on how to exploit the marine natural resources in the Arctic Ocean. BICA is trans-border business organization and will continue to develop synergies between clusters and organizations as long as the law authorizes it. Our role is not to become another NGO working on conservation or another institution working on regulatory nor policy issues. There are enough organizations doing it. Are they successful so far? This is another topic!

BFM: - What do you do if you have spare time, not preparing a global business conference?

PE: Biomarine is time consuming and I need to prepare the future. As you know 2015 we will be in the USA in North Carolina, before coming back to Oslo in 2016. In parallel, I am working with my friend Oystein Lie on building our future strategic alliance between Marlife and BioMarine. I’d also like to develop with Blue Frontier Media our online channel and portal to allow a faster communication and information within our global network.  BioMarine community is now over 300,000 professionals and they deserve my attention. Finally I also seat on several SMEs boards and they expect me to open the right doors to become global players. 

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