In December 2007 the European Parliament and Council adopted a common text for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which aims to achieve environmentally healthy marine waters by 2020. This Directive includes a requirement for an overarching European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet).
During the one-year consultation phase that followed the release of the EU Green Paper on a Future Maritime Policy for the European Union, stakeholders confirmed that the present poor access to data on the marine environment was a brake on the economy, a handicap to government decisionmaking and a barrier to scientific understanding. Time spent collating data from different sources represents a significant proportion of the costs of environmental impact assessments and the lack of access to data leads to duplication of costly research activity. Facilitating access to high quality marine data will resolve difficulties and stimulate an expansion of value-added public and commercial services, lay the foundations for sound governance and reduce uncertainties on human impact on the planet as well as of forecasts relating to the future state of the marine environment. These uncertainties, particularly in future climate change and health of the ecosystem close to the coast, represent an economic burden. Better and linked marine data will have an immediate impact on the planning of environmental policy and mitigation measures, and will also facilitate impact assessments and scientific work.
Accordingly in its Blue Book on an integrated maritime policy for the European Union, the Commission proposed to ‘take steps in 2008 towards a European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)' and in the accompanying Action Plan to ‘prepare by 2009 an EU action plan to make progress in this area on the basis of a road map to be published in 2008. It will provide an overview of the main data and information service categories to be covered and some of their sources and uses, as well as examples of benefits and added value of better integration, and clarify how this initiative relates to other initiatives'.
To further these aims the Commission proposed the launching of a preparatory action starting in 2008. This financial instrument allows the Commission to prepare proposals with a view to the adoption of future actions. Parliament agreed and a decision was made to go ahead in December 2007.
EMODnet will provide data on scales defined by the regions and subregions of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. EMODnet, as an open data system, is then also considered as a significant observation and monitoring data conduit for the part of the Water Information System for Europe (WISE) that will be developed for dealing with marine information (WISE-Marine) and supporting the data and indicator needs for the initial assessments required by member States in 2012 by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. WISE and WISE-Marine are thematic branches of the envisaged Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) based on INSPIRE principles. EMODnet data should be directly available for viewing through WISE-Marine. WISE-Marine is being developed along a timeline which is in parallel to the EMODnet preparatory actions.
The "proof of concept" of EMODnet is being tested through preparatory actions. Portals for a number of maritime basins are being set up for hydrographic, geological, biological and chemical data as well as functional habitat maps. These portals will provide access to marine data of a standard format and known quality and identify gaps in coverage. The projects will identify the main challenges in moving from an ur-EMODnet to an operational EMODnet.
An impact assessment to be conducted in 2009 will assess options for moving towards a definitive EMODnet, both in the intermediate period 2011-2013 and in the long term after 2014. At the same time efforts will begin to integrate other funding mechanisms. Given that EMODnet is very much focused on a sea-basin scale and given the impetus accorded to territorial cohesion by the new Green Paper, discussions will begin to determine whether cohesion funding could support the initiative. Moves will begin to integrate EMODnet with initiatives under the EU's Research Infrastructure actions and the Common Fisheries Policy Data Collection Regulation.
The ur-EMODnet will be operational throughout 2010 and 2011, collecting feedback from users on fitness for purpose and indicating how the definitive EMODnet might be set up. Should these prototypes prove to be successful, then efforts will be made to extend their geographic range in order to cover all of the waters of EU Member States for one or more sets of parameters through Community instruments for territorial cooperation. One final set of preparatory actions may be launched in 2010 to answer further questions not covered by the ongoing actions. Preparatory actions are designed to prepare proposals with a view to the adoption of future actions. Based on the knowledge gathered during this exploratory ur-EMODnet a strategy will be developed for moving ahead.
Further information about EMODnet can be found at the EU DG MARE website