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Brussels, 13 September 2010

Marine Knowledge 2020

Why a marine knowledge initiative?

Without marine knowledge we cannot sustainably manage the changing seas and oceans, we cannot understand the impact of these changes on human activity and we cannot take advantage of new opportunities for growth and employment.

Europe therefore spends more than €1 billion a year of public money on monitoring and measuring the seas – for purposes such as safe navigation, coastal protection or fisheries management – yet professionals who require the data are confronted with barriers and bottlenecks when they try to find what data already exist or when they ask for permission to use the data. The data themselves can be of unknown quality and a plethora of different standards, nomenclatures, classifications and formats make assembling the data from different sources unnecessarily complex.

Why is action at an EU level necessary?

Seas can only be understood at a sea-basin level. Changes in one country's waters affect those of its neighbours. In a public consultation, stakeholders overwhelmingly agreed that only the EU had the legislative and financial means to create a truly European architecture.

How is the EU contributing?

The INSPIRE Directive and the Public Sector Information Directive facilitate access and re-use of all public information. There are also a number of actions specific to the marine domain that enrich this basic legislation. We can distinguish three phases of processing:

  • "collection" or "observation". This is largely a responsibility of Member States – although the EU does support the collection of data to support the Common Fisheries Policy and contributes towards the cost of satellite observations of the ocean;

  • "assembly" to facilitate access to data layers of comparable and compatible parameters. Here the EU's ability to foster cross-border partnerships adds most value. A number of preparatory actions have begun to assemble fragmented data into seamless data layers on a sea-basin basis, indicating the quality of the underlying data and highlighting gaps. It is proposed to extend the coverage and increase the resolution of these data layers over the next three years.

  • "application", where support at EU level is limited to those areas where the EU itself needs a specific answer.

The focus of the current initiative is on assembly.

Which geographical areas are covered?

In principle the initiative covers all marine data held by bodies within the EU, wherever they have been collected. However, in the initial preparatory phases there has been some emphasis on seas adjacent to the European continent. This is partly in order to make the most of economic opportunities in near waters and partly to help Member States meet the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive for monitoring environmental status.

How much will it cost?

Over and above the marine knowledge generated and applied within EU research programmes the EU budget already contributes about €110 million per year for collection of marine data – €40 million for fisheries data and €70 million for space data. For 2011-2013 another €18.5 million per year has been proposed for assembling data – approximately €11 million through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative and €7.5 million through the proposed financial regulation for integrated maritime policy.

When will results be available?

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security prototype marine core service portal opened in spring 2009. Prototype internet portals for the European Marine Observation and Data Network are being unveiled during summer of 2010. These already provide access to seamless layers of bathymetric (water depth), geological, physical, chemical, biological and habitat data for selected sea basins. They include facilities for users to provide feedback so that the services offered can progressively meet the requirements of the target users – industry, public authorities and academia.

What will happen after 2013?

The Commission will conduct a further impact assessment in 2013 to analyse how well the chosen architecture solves the problems identified by stakeholders and to propose options for the years ahead.

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