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Brussels, 14 June 2007

European science community highlights their contribution to maritime policy

A major gathering of the European marine science community, taking place in Aberdeen on 22 June, will agree a contribution to the Commission's Green Paper on Maritime Policy that highlights the importance of research and science to a sound and inclusive European maritime policy. The EU's Research Framework Programmes have a good track record of supporting maritime research for protecting and preserving the marine environment, addressing marine pollution to limit impact on marine biodiversity, marine ecosystems, human health and other legitimate use of our seas and ensuring the sustainability of marine resources, goods and services. In fact, during the 6th Research Framework Programme, some 250 projects received €612 million in funding. Some highlights of this research portfolio are presented to the press today.

Three projects will be showcased, addressing different aspects of maritime science.

HERMES, led by Natural Environment Research Council, UK , examines the biodiversity, structure, function and dynamics of ecosystems along Europe's deep coast margin. It brings together scientists from a variety of disciplines - geology, sedimentology, physical oceanography, microbiology and biogeochemistry – to understand how the relationship of biodiversity to ecosystem works within our seas. With study sites from the Black Sea to the Arctic, it can consider a wide cross-section of European waters and seas. HERMES is a consortium of 45 partners, from 15 countries, including 9 small companies.

The Vessel Detection System (VDS) developed by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre uses satellite images to detect fishing vessels' activity whether or not vessels are reporting their position using the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). VDS was successfully demonstrated in the North-East Atlantic, Baltic, Barents and North Seas, Western Waters and the Mediterranean. It is a powerful new tool to check for identify non-compliance with fishing regulations and thereby help reduce to mitigate the risks from illegal fishing.

VISIONS, a network of industrial and research partners operating in the maritime sector, is developing visionary concepts for vessels and floating structures in 5 market areas: maritime tourism/leisure; short sea shipping; inland shipping; deep sea shipping and floating infrastructures. The project is a think-tank for new ideas which could be marketable in the medium to long term. It is specifically designed to combine scientific expertise with industrial and market requirements and to think differently about future maritime and marine needs and use. VISIONS has 24 core partners from 10 countries, coming from industry and academia.

The European Commission has supported a wide range of marine-related research activities. Under its Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6), 250 projects were funded in 11 different fields, from maritime transport and marine environment to food, agriculture & biotechnology, health and energy. The total funding received from the EU for these projects was €612 million. It is already clear that the possibilities across the FP7 programme are also considerable.

Maritime policy is crucial for Europe's future competitiveness and quality of life. 40% of the EU's GDP is generated in maritime regions, while almost 90% of external trade is carried by sea. Coastal tourism is not only responsible for 5% of total GDP, but is increasing annually by 3%. But there are limitations: 11 of the world's 15 major fisheries and 70% of commercial fish species are over-exploited. Increasing pollution of coastal water threatens marine biodiversity, human health and the income-generating possibility of leisure and recreation-based industries. A comprehensive approach, based on sound science is therefore required, and is the focus of the Commission's Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy for Europe, launched last year.
The wide-ranging consultation on the Green Paper will come to and end on 30 June 2007. The aim is to promote an all-embracing and coherent approach to all policies affecting maritime activities, such as shipping, shipbuilding, maritime transport, fisheries, tourism, port services and energy extraction etc.

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