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MEFEPO - North Western Waters Atlas

MEFEPO - Making the European Fisheries Ecosystem Plan Operational


The Atlas provides an overview of the North Western Waters ecosystem, covering issues including physcial and chemical features, habitat types, biological features, birds, mammals, Fishery and other human activities. This information is provided in non-technical language and intended to help policy makers, managers and stakeholders in decision making.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
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Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • How can marine ecosystems be characterised?
  • What is an ecosystem approach to fisheries management?
  • How can fisheries data support implementation of MSFD?

Implementation Context

The Making the European Fisheries Ecosystem Plan Operational (MEFEPO) project ran from September 2008 to November 2011. The aim of the project was to develop a framework and the supporting evidence base (natural and social science) to integrate the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) objectives within a reformed Common Fisheries Policy, in the context of ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM). Over the course of the project the team developed Fisheries Ecosystem Plans (FEPs) for three regional seas – the North Western Waters, South Western Waters and North Sea. A first stage of this work was to review the characteristics and issues in each of the regional seas. This information was compiled into technical reports and an Atlas for each of the regional seas.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Analysis of existing ecological, social and economic conditions
  • Developing fisheries management objectives
  • Analysing effectiveness of tools for ecosystem management
  • Analysis of fisheries policy, institutions and governance structures for fisheries
  • Developing operational objectives to achieve ecological objectives for regional seas
  • Identifying barriers to implementation of an ecosystems approach to fisheries
  • Common Fisheries Policy


In order to produce the North Western Waters Atlas, the MEFEPO project undertook a review of the ecological, social and economic features of the NWW region. This involved gathering information from numerous sources including GIS datasets and information in grey literature, national reports, national research programmes and published papers. The information was then used to compile both a technical review document, which examined the ecological, social and economic characteristics of the North Western Waters alongside case studies for particular fisheries and an analysis of stakeholder views on fisheries activity and policy for that region, with a non-technical Atlas, summarising the key data and issues. A similar approach was used to develop Atlases for the North Sea and South Western Waters.

Main Outputs / Results

  • Technical Review document on characteristics of North Western Waters region (plus same for North Sea and South Western Waters)
  • Non-technical Atlas for North Western Waters (plus same for North Sea and South Western Waters)
  • Technical documents on developing management objectives for each RAC region
  • Selection of operational management strategies to achieve policy objectives
  • Fisheries Ecosystem Plans for North Sea, North Western and South Western Waters
  • Review of progress towards an ecosystems approach to fisheries management


The process used to develop the Atlas of the North Western Waters and its accompanying technical documents is easily reproduced, as has been demonstrated by its use to create similar documents for the North Sea and South Western Waters. The collation of information from grey literature, academic papers, reports and GIS data in a systematic way, focusing on ecological conditions, human activities, socio-economic trends and fisheries case studies provides a clear structure for analysis and summary of the key conditions in a regional sea.

Responsible Entity

The MEFEPO project was led by the University of Liverpool (UK) with the Marine Institute (IE), Université de Bretagne Occidentale (FR), Instituto do Mar (PT), Instituto Nacional de REcursos Biologicos (PT), University of Tromso (NO), Innovative Fisheries Management (DK), Wageningen Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies (IMARES) (NL), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) (UK) and Instituto Espanol de Oceanographia (ES).

Costs / Funding Source

€1,935,000 / EU 7th Framework Programme