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Our Oceans, Seas and Coasts


We need for more scientific knowledge on our marine environment

A challenge in the implementation of the Marine Directive is to attain the necessary scientific knowledge of the elements that define the state of the marine environment. For a number of criteria and indicators, the need for further development and additional scientific information has been identified. Science must provide the knowledge upon which integrated management can build the tools for assessing progress towards Good Environmental Status. This knowledge will be developed, in particular, through the EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research (COM (2008) 534)in the framework of the Integrated Maritime Policy.

Researchers from all disciplines are working together to better understand the different environmental processes, the impacts of human activities and of climate change on marine environments, and the socio-economic impacts of the protection of the marine environment.

What do we need to know more about?

These are a few examples of the many things that we need to research about our marine environment:

  • Processes and functioning of the marine environment;
  • The functional role, evolution, protection and exploitation of marine biodiversity;
  • The impact of human activities (land-based and marine) on coastal and marine ecosystems and how to manage these (including via eco-efficient technologies);
  • How to apply an ecosystem approach to resource management and spatial planning to come up with the best options for coastal and Maritime Spatial Planning;
  • Many elements related to the deep-sea, such as deep-sea ecosystems and technologies to enhance deep-sea observation, sediments in continental margins and deep seas, gas hydrate behaviour, etc.

What are we doing to learn more?

Many research projects on the marine environment are funded by the EU research programme FP7. “Sustainable management of marine environments” is one of the sub-activities of the FP7 research theme “Environment”. It focuses on improving our understanding of the impacts of human activities on the ocean and seas and on marine resources. You can find the list of all research projects funded under the FP7 research programme here (/research/environment/) and a few examples are given on this page.

Ocean of Tomorrow

One of the initiatives taken to implement the European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research is the “Ocean of Tomorrow 2012” initiative. “Ocean of Tomorrow 2012”, also funded through FP7, focuses in particular on the research gaps about the definition and monitoring of the Good Environment Status of EU waters, making it one of the crucial instruments that will support the implementation of the Marine Directive. It is implemented through 9 coordinated topics addressing a wide range of marine related issues relevant to several descriptors of the Directive, including fisheries, climate change, agriculture, transport, energy, etc. Find out more here: /research/agriculture/ocean2012/


The objective of the ERA-NET scheme is to develop and strengthen the coordination of national and regional research programmes. Under the ERA-NET scheme, national and regional authorities identify research programmes they wish to coordinate or open up mutually. The participants in these actions are therefore programme 'owners' (typically ministries or regional authorities defining research programmes) or programme 'managers' (such as research councils or other research funding agencies managing research programmes) .Find out more here:

Two examples of research programmes set up under the ERA-NET scheme are Bonus and SeasEra

Bonus - Science for a better future of the Baltic Sea Region

BONUS is a research and development programme, which was set up to protect the Baltic Sea region. It brings together over 100 research institutes and universities working in the fields of marine, maritime, economic and social research to address the major challenges faced by the Baltic Sea region. The main goal is to produce knowledge to support the development and implementation of regulations, policies and management practices specifically tailored for the Baltic Sea region. To achieve this, it issues calls for competitive proposals and funding projects. Between 2009 and 2011, 16 projects were funded by the BONUS programme. Find out more here:

SeasEra - Towards Integrated Marine Research Strategy and Programmes

SEAS-ERA’s overall objective is to facilitate the establishment of a stable and durable structure for strengthening marine research across the European Sea Basins. To do so the project brings together 20 major European Marine Research Funding Organisations from 20 countries in the basin regions of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Find out more here:

JPI Oceans – Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans

The Joint Programming Initiative ‘Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans’ (JPI Oceans) is a coordinating and integrating long-term platform, open on a voluntary basis to all EU Member States and Associated Countries, who invest in marine and maritime research. It is specifically dedicated to research on marine issues and will develop stronger long-term structures and partnerships to link marine research and marine environment policy. Find out more here:

Marine knowledge 2020 - Marine data and observation for smart and sustainable growth

Marine Knowledge 2020 is not a FP7 programme. It has been developed by DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, in line with the “Europe 2020” strategy, to facilitate access to marine data. It brings together marine data from different sources with the aim of helping industry, public authorities and researchers find the relevant data they need and make more effective use of them to develop new products and services. Through the prototype websites of the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODNET), engineers and scientists can see what data are available for a given sea basin, and download both original observations and derived data products such as digital terrain models, sediment distributions and marine habitats. Find out more here: /maritimeaffairs/policy/marine_knowledge_2020/

European Atlas of the Seas

The European Atlas of the Seas is for anyone interested in the maritime world and our common maritime heritage. It was developed to raise awareness of Europe's oceans and seas, in the context of the EU's integrated maritime policy. It is an easy, interactive way for anyone interested to learn more about Europe's seas and coasts, their environment, related human activities and European policies. Find out more here: /maritimeaffairs/atlas/index_en.htm

Research is already on-going in many areas to better understand our seas:

  • DEVOTES: Improving understanding of human activities impacts and variations due to climate change on marine biodiversity;
  • HERMIONE: Hotspot Ecosystem Research and man’s impact on European Seas;
  • KNOWSEAS: Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe’s Seas;
  • MARCOM+: Towards an Integrated Marine and Maritime Science Community;
  • Marine TT: European Marine Research Knowledge Transfer and Uptake of Results;
  • MESMA: Monitoring and Evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas;
  • ODEMM: Options for Ecosystem-based Marine Management;
  • PEGASO: People for Ecosystem Based Governance in Assessing Sustainable Development; of Ocean and Coasts.
  • ATLAS: A Trans-Atlantic assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management plan for Europe
  • MERCES: Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas
  • SPONGES: Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic an integrated approach towards their preservation and sustainable exploitation

For research projects on ICZM, please visit:/