Balancing impacts of human activities in the Belgian part of the North Sea
In the 5th North Sea Declaration (2002) Ministers stressed the need to establish an ecosystem based management of the North Sea in order to conserve biological diversity and ensure sustainable development. To reach the latter, integration of science based, environmental and socio-economic factors influencing the functioning of the North Sea ecosystem are essential. Various research activities in the Belgian part of the North Sea identified either ecological indicators without any link to socio-economical indicators or socio-economical indicators that are not linked to potential ecological indicators. At this stage, the absence of accepted systems and techniques for integrating, weighing and balancing social, economic and ecological indicators is an important lacuna.
Sustainable management of the North Sea is a complex theme due to interactions between the social, the economic and the ecological dimension. Five research disciplines (socio-economics, ecology, ecotoxicology, modelling and fisheries) strive to develop a conceptual policy model, balancing ecological, economical and social indicators in an integrated approach, to support arguments and directions for policy makers to reach a more sustainable management of the Belgian part of the North Sea (BPN).
The purpose of this project is to gain experience in correlating and balancing relevant social, economic and ecological data, through the elaboration of indicators, weighing these indicators and the development of a conceptual policy model "Sustainable Management of the North Sea" Following items will i.a. be examined: the reliability of the model, the reduction of uncertainty and error, the relevance of policy models in the argumentation for sustainable management of the sea and the effects of changing parameters of different indicators (social, economic and ecological). As this type of research is very complex and still in an embryonic phase for the marine environment, the project boundaries are limited to fisheries, sand and gravel extraction and related shipping.
<li>Methodology & interaction between the different partners
In general all partners support the calculation of management scenarios.
Laboratory Marine Biology
- Selection and elaboration of relevant indicators for benthic en epibenthic ecology which reflect the impact of human offshore activities related to fisheries and sand/gravel exploitation, based on available literature. For fisheries special attention here will be directed to ecological impacts of the use of different types of fishing gear. For sand and gravel extraction, special attention will be given to disturbance and recolonisation of habitats.
Sea Fisheries Department
- Study of the ecological impact of sea fisheries based on own project research collected during the last 10 years and additional literature study. Special attention will be paid to the fishing techniques applied by Belgian fishermen.
- Synthesis of the available data sets and analysis of non-mined data in the Sea Fisheries Department concerning discarding in the Belgian shrimp and flatfish fisheries industry.
- Selection and elaboration of relevant ecotoxicological indicators which reflect the impact of various industrial activities in the North Sea (fisheries, sand and gravel extraction and discharges of pollutants).
- Selection of indicators representative for the ecological quality status of the chemistry of the water column and the seafloor, including ecological indicators of the toxicological quality and the effects of pollutants at the ecosystem level.
- Data management within the project.
- Study of the feasibility of visualisation of the data and support in the visualisation of the dynamics of a first conceptual balancing model.
- Support of the development and selection of different types of ecological and ecotoxicological indicators.
- Support of the elaboration of ecotoxicological indicators by the use of modelling.
Maritime Institute & Ecolas
- Selection and elaboration of social and economic indicators for fisheries, sand and gravel extraction and related shipping.
- Development of the impact of the basic management scenario. Impact on socio-economic indicators and the relation to ecological reference points will be taken into account.
- Construction of a conceptual balancing model (BALANS). This model will, as much as possible, be build based on dynamic relationships between the different indicators. Different methods and techniques of integration or balancing of social, economic, and ecological indicators will be analysed and compared.
- On the basic of management optimisation scenario’s and making use of the conceptual balancing model in co-ordination with the administrations, new developments in international/national law and policy will be used to make short term and long term predictions of their socio-economical and ecological effects.
- Detailed database of human activities and compiled database of the benthos of the BPN, evaluation of candidate indicators and selection of indicators related to this benthos.
- Development of ecotoxicological indicators of the watercolumn as a result of the focused activities.
- Application and validation of the developed indicators in a number of management scenarios.
- Identification of social and economical indicators for the focused activities.
- Relation between socio-economic indicators and ecological indicators based on a selection of indicator species derived from literature study and the database Macrodat.
- Relation between socio-economic indicators and ecological indicators based on a selection of ecotoxicological substances derived from literature and the databases.
- Comparison of methods for integration and balancing of social, economical and ecological indicators.
- A conceptual model balancing indicators for social, economical and ecological impacts of the focused activities.
- Relational database of the information relevant to the project.
- Synthetic analysis and dynamic visualisation of these data.