Plenty more fish in the sea?
The pressure on certain species is leading to evolutionary changes and is having an impact throughout the food web, leading to imbalances which may be irreversible. In extreme cases, this could result in the permanent collapse of certain ecosystems. We urgently need to improve our understanding of the processes at work and provide policy-makers with sound scientific advice on how best to protect the diversity of our oceans and ensure their sustainable development for the future.
Expanding aquaculture may provide a viable alternative but, again, further research is needed to evaluate the environmental and ecological impact of large-scale activities. European research teams are currently investigating all aspects of these problems.
Increasingly, the emphasis is being placed on an ecosystems approach to the management of fishery resources, involving the integration of various scientific disciplines and collaboration and the exchange of information between all the different actors involved.
Our coastal regions serve many purposes and the already high demands on them are constantly increasing. They are a major focus for leisure and tourism activities, a base for marine-related industry (transport, fishing, industrial shipping), and also an important natural habitat. The EU-backed ELOISE project cluster has been addressing a wide range of issues relating to land-ocean interactions at the European level. The results of this research should contribute to the development of improved policies for coastal-zone management.
A question of balance
The EUR-OCEANS Network of Excellence (NoE), launched in January 2005, gathers together over 60 research organisations and universities from 25 countries. The network hopes to bring about the long-term integration of European research into the effects of climate and human activities on the food-web dynamics of pelagic ecosystems in the open ocean. This will require an interdisciplinary approach progressively integrating the work of major research organisations into a ‘virtual’, multi-site European research facility.
The MARBEF NoE brings together some 56 European marine institutes to address one of the biggest questions in marine biology – that of elucidating the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The longer-term aim of the network is to establish a European centre of excellence which will serve as a platform for the integration and the dissemination of knowledge on marine biodiversity. The resulting European Centre for the Study of Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (EMBEF) will ensure Europe a lead role in this field.