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The challenges of obtaining information on extraction activities

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The DPSIR (Drivers – Pressures – States – Impacts – Responses) approach permits to describe the relationship between the human activities and the environment. Overall, this approach provides a mechanism for analysing environmental problems with regards to sustainable development. It has been a key issue for the development of legislation focused on the protection of the environment such as the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Therefore, it is of capital importance to obtain good quality data from each of the DPSIR components for a proper functioning of this approach and hence for a suitable implementation of the legislation.

dredgingFor decades, notable efforts have been made to collect large-scale data of different pressures that alter the environment. Among these pressures, aggregate extraction and dredging activities in marine and port areas require special attention due to their significant environmental impact. Hence, several environmental and regulatory organisations such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Oslo Paris (OSPAR) Convention, the HELCOM and MEDPOL Conventions, have tried to systematically record and update the existing information. However, this task faces many difficulties as not all countries have the information available and the data management is managed in different ways. In some countries the information is centralised in a public institution or is easily available online. Conversely, in other countries there is not direct or easy access to this information, making it very difficult to obtain this type of data.

The differences in the accessibility and quality of the data makes it extremely difficult to carry out large-scale assessments of the pressures of these human activities. Consequently, it is not possible to globally evaluate (at European scale) temporal tendencies of such pressures, and hence to apply the DPSIR in a global scale for the implementation of legislation.

This situation appeals for more involvement on the part of national institutions to support the compilation data work by looking for ways to transfer data effectively and in an agile manner to the international organisations like ICES, OSPAR, HELCOM and MEDPOL, in order to create a good quality and standardised database. In this context, it would be appropriate to introduce laws aimed to develop networks of obtaining information in a systematic way, which will allow the establishing of trends in these key pressures on the marine environment.

The main objective of the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) is to collect all the existing marine data in order to create operable, continuous and public accessible data for all the European maritime basins. This objective helps to achieve the commitments of the Member States in relation to the international conventions (OSPAR, HELCOM, MEDPOL) and directly supports the requirements of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. In this way, a legal framework for international cooperation and concerted actions to protect and preserve the marine environment is promoted.
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One of the tasks of the EMODnet team is to collect data related to marine aggregates extraction and dredging activities (extraction/dredging positions; extracted/dredged volume; dumping sites). The EMODnet Human Activities website reports all recorded information in a GIS database which is publicly accessible. The information received from official sources regarding aggregates extraction and dredging activities is very different, varying from country to country and even between institutions of the same country. In addition, some institutions refer to portals like OSPAR´s and HELCOM´s for oceanographic data.

Up to now, most of the data collected has come from the Southern Atlantic and North Sea countries, as well as from the Baltic countries. Information from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea countries are more difficult to obtain and data overall is scarce.

The information and views set out in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on the European Commission's behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information therein.

August 23rd, 2016 | Written by

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