Brussels, 13 Jul 2006
The European Marine Observation and Data Network
The EU needs to monitor the state of the planet's seas and oceans because it is committed to their sustainable exploitation and because a better knowledge of their functioning is needed if we are to understand and predict the future environmental conditions of the planet, including its terrestrial component. A number of initiatives are already underway to improve the EU's capabilities in this field, but moving from the current patchwork of activities with scattered data collections, heterogeneous formats, uncertain access to information and sporadic monitoring will require extra efforts over and above those that are already planned.
There is an almost universal consensus that this is an area where action at the EU level provides added value. The physical, chemical and biological connections between national waters must be mirrored in monitoring systems that combine the efforts of single nations into a wider endeavour that allows a complete picture of processes, changes and threats to be built up from a national to a regional and, ultimately, global scale. Building this picture requires the construction of indicators that allow Europeans to monitor trends in the pressure on ecosystems and to assess their health. It requires maps to delineate sea-bed habitats and zones for human activities. It requires the application of mathematical models for simulating natural processes and human activities. It requires effective communications to integrate the separate components. All of these require guaranteed access to data.
The EU should therefore consider setting up a European Marine Observation and Data Network which will provide a sustainable focus for improving interoperability and increasing access to data. It should not aim to provide services to end-users but rather be a source of primary and-processed data that can serve both public institutions, including their researchers, and commercial providers.