In order to do this, the EU's integrated maritime policy has helped these bodies set up a European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet). This is increasing the efficiency of those who need these data for planning and constructing new offshore facilities, assessing the risk of coastal erosion or monitoring marine protected areas. It is allowing new innovative services to be set up and reducing the risk of investing offshore or harming the ecosystem.
Over 350 of these scientists and engineers who provide or use the data met in Ostend, Belgium on 20 October to take stock of progress. At the beginning of the conference delegates were told that "it is no longer enough to collect data by yourself, publish the paper and move on to the next research question. We see greater expectations from funding agencies, researchers, and the extended community for open data access and machine access." EMODnet is helping to meet that expectation.
Opened by MEP João Ferreira and closed by MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos, the conference was the first occasion for representatives of all participating bodies to meet in a common forum. Delegates were shown seabed maps with newly visible underwater mountains and valleys. They were shown how sediments, habitats, contamination, marine life and human activities are distributed in European seas. And they were shown how the data are being used in ways that were not possible before.
Separate meetings afterwards allowed those from different disciplines – hydrographers, geologists, physicists, chemists, biologists – to see how they could put their efforts together. Solutions were proposed for common challenges such as measuring the quality of the service, engaging the private sector, helping EU countries report the state of their marine environment or reducing the formalities involved in downloading data whilst tracking usage in order to improve the service.
The current phase of EMODnet comes to an end in 2016. The next phase will see more efforts to reduce the time between observation and dissemination, to capture the data that private companies submit as part of their environmental impact obligations, and to join up with other major initiatives - primarily at first with countries on the western shores of the Atlantic.
Tyrrenhian Sea before and after EMODnet: