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Sustainable Marine Management

Posted on 22/02/2012 • News Categories: Featured News

The European Union has established an integrated maritime policy to address the growing importance of maritime activities and the associated increased potential for negative impacts to the marine environment. Akvaplan-niva is leading a program that will create a modeling system for integrated ecosystem based impact assessments and that will improve the scientific foundation for sustainable management of Europe's sub-Arctic to Arctic seas. This modeling system, known as SYMBIOSES, is designed to perform realistic simulations to examine the possible outcomes of different combinations of maritime activities. Initially SYMBIOSES will examine the impacts of fisheries and petroleum industry operations on fish and plankton communities.

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The Arctic is an area rich in natural resources and thus is experiencing a significant increase in sea-based activities related to maritime transport, offshore energy, tourism, coastal development, fisheries and aquaculture. This northwards expansion is partly due to new discoveries of natural resources but also to improved access routes and newly available infrastructure in the region. Part of the European Union's maritime strategy is to integrate marine and maritime research disciplines in order to build the knowledge base for a sus¬tainable growth of sea-based activities and, in particular, to reconcile sea-based activities with environmental sustainability.

SYMBIOSES is a decision support system that is being developed by a consortium of 15 European partners from research institutes, universities, and private companies. It is initially being developed and tested in the spatially managed sub-arctic to arctic area of the Lofoten/Barents Sea. The Lofoten/Barents Sea region is rich in petroleum resources and is also characterized as a key spawning area for several North Atlantic commercial fish species. This integrated modeling system is being developed not only to improve environmental impact assessments but also to provide a framework to synthesize and organise knowledge acquisition activities and to improve the identification of knowledge gaps for further scientific research.

The system includes a physical model to simulate the oceanographic features of a given region, biological models to simulate the distribution and behavior of different life stages of important commercial fish species, zooplankton prey species and phytoplankton, a model to simulate the transport and fate of petroleum components, and models to predict the effect of petroleum components on fish and their prey. The system generates a range of outputs from water current fields and plankton distributions to toxicological endpoints and effects, to fisheries parameters. Results are then presented using easily understandable numerical and visual presentation tools, including the presentation of prediction uncertainties.

System applications include:

  • Performance of spatial/temporal planning and risk reduction
  • Comparison of impacts associated with combinations of sea-based activities
  • Evaluation of various sustainable management options for individual maritime actors

The development of SYMBIOSES is financed through a major public-private partnership between the Research Council of Norway and seven international petroleum companies. The first version of SYMBIOSES will be available in late 2014 with plans to extend its application into other maritime areas and applications thereafter.

SYMBIOSES will be a key support for integrated marine policy decision-making by improving the prediction of marine ecosystems’ response to a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors and allowing different actions for sustainable management to be evaluated.

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