MyBlueCity is going digital | Interview #17 | The EMODnet Project

EMODnet– Unlocking European marine data for everyone

Ana Ferreira (BioMarine Community Manager) 


We know that marine data availability, despite being highly valuable, is not only scarce but also profoundly scattered. Moreover, the information that ends up being available is (understandably) provided in different formats, decreasing its comparability and use potential. To face these challenges, the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) funded the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) - a long-term initiative to unlock fragmented and hidden marine data resources and to make these available to individuals and organisations, facilitating management and investment in marine activities. 

We got the chance to talk with our community members Alessandro Pititto (EMODnet Human Activities Coordinator) and he told us the details behind the Project and what will be the next steps! Rita Araújo (Scientific officer at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre) provided us some additional information about the section on algae producers in Europe.

[CLICK HERE to access the PDF document of the interview]


What is exactly the EMODnet Project and why is it so useful? 

This is definitely a complex question, as the EMODnet Project holds many ramifications to provide a myriad of data sets separated by different thematic. However, and before getting there, it’s important to understand what’s happening on the backstage! Alessandro explained us that “The Project was (and is) built by a network of organisations that work together to observe the sea, process the data according to international standards and make that information freely available as interoperable data layers and data products”. So, why is this important? Alessandro resumed it perfectly by stating their motto “Collect data once and use it many times”. This means, as Alessandro explained, that – “We harmonise and make available existing data to the great benefit of all marine data users, including policy makers, scientists, private industry and the public. It has been estimated that such an integrated marine data policy will save at least one billion euros per year, as well as opening up new opportunities for innovation and growth”. 











Available data from everyone, to everyone!

Inside the EMODnet Project, it’s possible for everyone (yes, everyone!) to "have access to European marine data across seven discipline-based themes: Bathymetry, Geology, Seabed habitats, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Human Activities”, says Alessandro. He continues to explain that “For each of these themes, EMODnet has created a gateway to a range of data archives managed by local, national, regional and international organisations, through which users can have access to standardised observations, data quality indicators and processed data products, such as basin-scale maps”. 


A special section for Algae producers in Europe

Inside the Human Activities section there is available information on existing micro and macroalgae producers in Europe! This data was made available by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) who “started to build this information from scratch by combining the algae industry databases kindly shared by the European Algae Biomass Association (EABA) and building on the knowledge gathered within our working network”, said Rita Araújo, who is leading this specific section. Rita explained the used methodology: “To start, the team compiled a data base composed by 206 algae producers, categorized in 3 levels depending on the reliability of the information - location of the production facilities, group of organisms produced (macro/microalgae) and production method”. After that “All the companies were contacted and the ones that replied were grouped in level 1 (57 companies), the ones that did not reply but to which we could find clear information were categorized as level 2 (71 companies) and the remaining as level 3 (78 companies). All the companies from level 1 and 2 were included in the mapping of the algae industry available in the portal”.


The main achievements so far

This ambitious Project has been implemented in different phases and is currently on Phase 3, which aims to “bring a multi-resolution digital map of the entire seabed of European waters providing the highest resolution possible (…); accompanied by timely information on physical, chemical and biological state of the overlying water column as well as oceanographic forecasts”. Of course, these ambitious goals don’t come without expected challenges, as explained by Alessandro “There are still several data gaps which might be difficult to bridge, but the EMODnet Secretariat has been working hard to reach out to the business community and show how free data can create value added at no cost”. 

Despite the challenges, the results obtained so far are pretty promising - “More than 150 organisations are participating and allowing for the availability of more than 100 data sets across the different EMODnet portals. And this number is ever increasing!”, said Alessandro.


What are the next steps for the EMODnet Project?

Despite the evident success of the Project, Alessandro shared that there is still lots of room for improvement – “We would like to improve the services offered, by making them more and more user-friendly. And, of course, we need to bridge the remaining gaps”. Rita’s feedbacks on the Algae producers dataset are quite similar – “Identifying missing companies or increasing the quality of the information for Level 2 and 3 algae producers”. Plus, she adds that “We will now map the European Spirulina production units and add new categories of information (e.g. species produced, company size, estimated quantities) to the database, although we are still evaluating the added value and associated confidentiality limitations of collecting information on biomass quantities”.


How can the BioMarine Community get involved?

Besides making the most of the available information, our BioMarine Community holds crucial information that could be fed into the EMODnet data set! Alessandro explains what you can do – “The BioMarine community can definitely contribute to improving our data set or simply support the JRC of the EU Commission in their data collection effort, using the Data Ingestion Facility”. Finally, he adds that “User feedback is crucial to understand where we should go and the BioMarine Community can also contribute by simply letting us know what they like and what they don’t like about it; what they would need and how they would need it!”. 

I bet you’ll find all the information useful and participate from now on! You can start by checking the information they are looking for right now by accessing the Data Wanted section.


Want to know more info about the EMODnet Project?

Click HERE or contact the team through the BioMarine Community!

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