Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Ninth meeting of Marine Observation and Data Expert Group

Event date:
26/05/2010 - 09:30 to 17:30
Table of Contents

    This was the ninth meeting of the Marine Observation and Data Expert Group. It was attended by MODEG members Colpan Beken, Frederique Blanc, Antonio Bode, Jean-François Bourillet, Peter Burkill, Hans Dahlin, Yann-Hervé De Roeck, Robert Gatliff, Lars Hansen, Remi Laane, Dick Schaap, Henry Vallius, Christopher Zimmermann as well as Trine Christiansen from the European Environment Agency and Mikko Strahlendorff, Raf Deroo, Iain Shepherd, Gaëlle Le Bouler, Vittorio Barale and Anna Cheilari from the European Commission. Lesley Rickards, Anastasios Tselepidis, François Le Corre, Ralph Rayner and Ilaria Nardello had apologised for their absence.


    It is clear to MODEG members, and also a fundamental principle of the EU's marine knowledge initiative, that marine data are not useful without an accompanying assessment of their quality or reliability. Users do not necessarily need a specific confidence level but they do need to know what that confidence level is.

    This had also been discussed the previous day at the ur-EMODNET preparatory action meeting. The Environment Agency's European Environment Information and Observation Network has suggested a dictionary of measuring stations.

    The perennial question of quantity – whether enough data are being collected –also came up. The UK meteorological office has indicated that the present number of Argo-floats – about 3000 – is probably sufficient to calibrate and validate their computer models. However one meteorologist in the group said that meteorological data in general is undersampled.

    The Commission said that it is clear that the current monitoring infrastructure is a heterogeneous mixture. Each country organises and finances its monitoring in a different way. It is not yet clear how to improve matters. Nobody has yet come up with a convincing argument as to which measurements are missing and where the monitoring network should be strengthened. This will not be possible till we can assess what we are monitoring now. The preparatory actions should help in that respect. An impact assessment is planned for 2013.

    The issue of quality control will be discussed in a more detailed manner at the next MODEG meeting.



    MODEG felt that the consortium for bathymetry had made good progress. A number of points were made:

    1. The portal should make clear that the data are not to be used for navigation.
    2. Many hydrographic offices had provided gridded data rather than the original surveys. The range of different formats would make interpretation difficult.
    3. Metadata may not be present in cases where the terrain is digitized from old fairsheets and charts where the metadata are unknown.
    4. It makes no sense to detect changes in the bottom by comparing old single-beam surveys to modern multi-beam surveys. Generally a full covering survey will pick up more objects and hence give the impression that depths have decreased. In areas with mobile seabed where surveys are conducted at regular intervals, the data is often kept in order to monitor the change.
    5. More metadata should be provided on the wrecks. However this needs to be treated with caution. Some archaeologists and historians are concerned that this might lead to disturbance.
    6. Users prefer a cartesian grids to longitude-latitude. Some models for slope assume that the grid is cartesian.

    Finally there was concern about maintaining and updating the data once the contract has finished. The Commission said that the intention was to continue but it would have to obey public procurement rules. There can be no guarantee that follow-up projects are run by the same consortium.


    The geological group is the most homogeneous in terms of membership. Nearly all represent national geological surveys. Coherence with the One-Geology project is clearly useful. We should aim to ensure that the European component is an example of good practice. However MODEG felt that more could be done to create a similar look and feel with the other ur-EMODNET portals.

    The sediment layer has been assembled from over 200 maps of varying degrees of quality. The final product should bring out the quality of the data.

    Should the proposed financing for a maritime policy be approved, then it is planned to complete the geological map for all European sea basins and possibly move to a higher resolution.

    Changes in sediments are not necessarily over geological timescales. Sandbanks and coastlines can change dramatically over years. It would be useful to see where change is fastest. Coastal change is also monitored with the Corine landcover project.


    MODEG felt that the group had not yet managed to assemble all the available data for the sea basins concerned. It was not clear whether they had contacted the regional sea conventions.

    Whilst the efforts at mapping concentrations were applauded and are clearly necessary it is clear that many stakeholders need to see the progression in time.


    There is great interest in invasive species. Might it be possible to quantify the rate of invasion from the gathered data?

    Neither is it clear how to obtain biodiversity from the assembled data. Species such as dinoflagellates could be grouped. Peter Burkill said that he would suggest someone who could lead a discussion on biodiversity at the next Expert Group meeting.

    Seafloor Habitats

    The habitat project is coming on nicely. Although it is an aim of the project to use a uniform classification for all the sea basins, there are some suggestions that the EUNIS classification is not suited to the Mediterranean.

    There was the usual discussion as to whether habitats derived from physical parameters could really be called habitats. Some of the expert group preferred to call them habitat potential. In any case the fact that other groups, funded separately, are completing these maps was seen as useful.

    Results of models. Great Britain then France. Methodology might differ. Lack of unification – maybe EUNIS classification is not so suited to Mediterranean.

    The EU has made considerable investments in the GMES marine core service so it is useful to extract as much useful information as possible. The Commission's GMES bureau will see if shear stress on the sea bottom can be determined from the forecasting models used. In some cases the peak rather than average values are needed.


    Up to now fisheries data have not been included in ur-EMODNET because the EU's Data Collection framework already deals with the matter. Approximately €40 million a year of EU funding is provided for Member States' data collection. An EU Regulation lists the data that should be collected and a target precision defines the sampling that is necessary. Economic as well as biological data are collected.

    However determining what is happening to a particular stock requires assembling data from all the Member States that fish that stock and this presents challenges. The Commission's Joint Research Centre is charged with assembling data for stock assessments, management advice or determining the economic health of the industry. The challenges include:

    1. lack of regional databases
    2. slow response to calls for data – for management advice, timing is critical
    3. wrong formats in data submitted
    4. no standards for software or codification in Member States

    In general data from the Mediterranean is less complete and less homogenous than other sea basins.

    This presentation was sobering. In many respects the infrastructure for fisheries data is more advanced than other marine data – particularly other biological data – and the EU contribution is significant but it still takes considerable effort to assemble national data collections into information that is fit for purpose.


    Marine laboratories and agencies are asking for a better environmental reporting system. Clearly they do not want to report separately and in incompatible formats to national authorities, regional sea conventions, the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the European Environment Agency. Barriers are not only technical. Scientific laboratories and environmental agencies do not always communicate effectively. Regional authorities in Spain are responsible for monitoring the marine environment whereas reporting to the European Environment Agency is a national responsibility. Information flow from the regional to the national level is sporadic. Reporting on conditions in the Black Sea from Romania and Russia is good. But from Bulgaria it is not.

    In order to provide objective, reliable and comparable information at European level and to ensure that the public is properly informed about the state of the environment, the European Environment Agency needs to be actively involved in relevant European legislation such as the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. It expects that the European Marine Observation and Data Network will provide the necessary data for the WISE-marine reporting platform.


    The actions for the Expert Group were

    Reply to call for applications for experts in a renewed Marine Observation and Data Expert Group MODEG
    Produce paper on priorities for next phase of ur-EMODNET and how it will be managed Commission DG-MARE
    Invite expert to discuss biological indicators Peter Burkill
    Suggest expert to present national reporting in Belgium and Netherlands at next meeting. Remi Laane
    Invite expert to present difficulties with reporting cross-EEZ observations from Ferry Boxes (Tom Rossby was suggested) Commission DG-MARE
    Organise discussion on calculation of abundance and biodiversity from ur_EMODNET biological lot Commission DG-MARE
    See whether MyOCean can calculate shear stress on ocean floor Commission DG-ENTR

    Next Meetings

    The next meetings of the expert group will be in Brussels on:

    28-29 September 2010

    29-30 November 2010