The pilot action Multi use of Infrastructure for Monitoring in the North Sea was proposed by The Netherlands in 2012.The action resulted in a workshop between scientists and funding bodies in 2013 and additional monitoring during various International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS) cruises in 2014.
The action picked a number of indicators that require monitoring activities, to be added to current (fish stock) monitoring programmes. The intention was to develop pilot studies to test these on current monitoring activities as soon as possible. The process of organising the pilot, the needs (budgets, equipment, time) and the limitations (vessels, crew, permits) was of more interest than the actual data collected at sea. Such information was a useful input for the project of DG Environment to be able to calculate costs and design an efficient integrated monitoring programme.
The overall approach of the pilot action was directed towards the following three components: (1) setting up integrated monitoring surveys, (2) enhancing integration of monitoring efforts and (3) promoting data sharing and integrated information systems. The pilot action focused on integrated surveys but also considered the requirements of the other components during implementation. The basic requirements for the approach were as follows:
- Design future (fish stock) monitoring surveys to incorporate both the needs of the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) through the EU (Data Collection Framework) within the frame of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive);
- Incorporate flexible, adaptive elements to the approach, allowing for the implementation of future needs as they emerge;
- Coordinate survey planning at the international level and at the scale of sea basins.
As such the pilot action aimed at incorporating monitoring for MSFD descriptors in the current International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS). The IBTS survey is coordinated internationally by experts from Germany, France, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, executed twice a year (first and third quarter of the year) covering the Greater North Sea.
Workshop between scientific experts and funding bodies from interested countries on 9 November 2013.
Additional monitoring proposals made at this workshop- of which a number were tried out by 7 countries during various IBTS cruises in 2014 (extending the 1st experience in 2013).
The experiments at sea have resulted in some simple overviews of costs related to more integrated monitoring.
The whole process has given an impression of issues and problems related to organising additional monitoring (funded or not from outside the regular funding for the survey) for Incorporating flexible, adaptive elements to the traditional approach, allowing for the implementation of future needs as they emerge.
A long history of monitoring of the marine environment in the North Sea exists, including oceanographic, hydrographic, biological and human impact monitoring programmes. Some of these programmes have been active consistently and have produced very valuable time-series, while others monitored irregularly or only in case of opportunities. The degree of organisation and coordination differs.
Current policy developments and related European and national legal obligations (e.g. MSFD) increase the requirements to monitoring programmess. Indicators have been proposed in order to monitor the status of the environment, requiring additions to or extensions of current monitoring programmes or new innovative programmes.
To make best use of each Euro spent, international collaboration is recommended to coordinate the North Sea monitoring activities, crossing national borders. Preparations for this were taken care of by the project of DG Environment (DG ENV) on ‘New knowledge for integrated management of human activity in the sea’. The project made an initial inventory of the needs for joint data acquisition, measurement standards, measurement techniques and (common) sampling locations. In that regard it identified synergies and redundancies and serve as a basis for joint data collection efforts.
However, the theorethical exercise proposed in the project of DG ENV required input from the field to become aware of the obstacles and the limitations of monitoring platforms and measurement techniques. This is where the pilot action played a role.