Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe’s Seas

Implementation Period:
Specific Funding Programme:

7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (European Commission) under the Environment Theme.



About the Project:

Europe’s four regional seas (Baltic, Black, Mediterranean and NE Atlantic) have suffered severe environmental degradation due to human pressure. Existing measures to manage pressures have proven inadequate and the EC has responded by proposing a new policy (Maritime Strategy Blue Book) and environmental legislation (Marine Strategy Directive). These instruments rely on the Ecosystem Approach, a management paradigm that encompasses humans and the supporting ecosystem. But the science base for this approach needs strengthening and practical tools must be developed and tested for policy implementation. In particular, criteria for assessing costs and benefits of management actions are poorly developed, particularly in the complex marine environment where multiple uses and management conflicts are common.

The KNOWSEAS consortium strengthened the science base for managing Europe’s seas through the practical application of systems thinking. It worked at the two scales envisaged for emergent EU policy: the Regional Sea Scale and Member State Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZs).

KNOWSEAS developed a new approach of Decision Space Analysis to investigate mismatches of scale. Knowledge created through the FP6 European Lifestyles and Marine Ecosystems project, augmented with necessary new studies of climate effects, fisheries and maritime industries - in EEZ case studies – provides a basis for assessing changes to natural systems and their human causes. The project’s researches consisted in the development and test of an assessment toolbox through regional liaison groups and a multisectoral Project Advisory Board.

Project main results:

  • The first step towards implementing an ecosystem approach is finding out how people view their role in the marine environment. A survey was undertaken to this end.
  • The project also examined the effects of extreme events on European seas, as well as ways to reduce eutrophication (an overgrowth of plants due to an oversupply of nutrients) in the Baltic. It was found that changes in the oceans are often due to climate and water temperature shifts, which may well be beyond the control of marine policies.
  • Another focus was the effects of fishing, transport, energy for aquaculture, water quality and recreation on the seas. This information will help scientists balance the environmental costs of degradation with the economic benefits of the goods and services provided by these ecosystems.
  • The project finally identified potential conflicts and alliances between marine governance structures to smooth future policy implementation. In addition, it developed a tool to allow stakeholders to communicate effectively with policymakers.

Project partners

  • The Scottisch Association for Marine Science – Lead Partner (UK)
  • University College Cork-National University of Ireland (IE)
  • Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung AWI (DE)
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche (IT)
  • EUCC - The Coastal Union (NL)
  • Finnish Environment Institute SYKE (FI)
  • IMAR-Instituto do Mar (PT)
  • Institute for European Environmental Policy London (GB)
  • Institute of Oceanology - Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BG)
  • Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen-KNAW (NL)
  • MEGAPESCA Formacao Profissional Eprestacao de Servicos LDA (PT)
  • Middle East Technical University (TR)
  • Morski Instytut Rybacky w Gdyni (PL)
  • Norsk Institutt for Luftforskning (NO)
  • Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (GB)
  • Stichting Deltares (NL)
  • Stockholms Universitet (SE)
  • The Scottish Association for Marine Science SAMS (GB)
  • The Secretary of State For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (GB)
  • Universita ca Forscari di Venezia (IT)
  • Universita degli Studi di Padova (IT)
  • Université de Bretagne Occidentale (FR)
  • University of Bath (GB)
  • University of East Anglia (GB)
  • University of Plymouth (GB)
  • University of Plymouth (GB)
  • University of Southern Denmark (DK)
  • Vereniging Voor Christelijk Hoger Onderwijs, Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek En Patientenzorg (NL)