Marine Ecology and Management


The sea is a very ‘international’ environment, with relatively free access, no clear borders, and moving water masses and populations of creatures. Therefore, it would not be useful that every nation bordering the sea develops its own marine environmental management policy. Such policy is mainly coordinated internationally, at different regional levels ranging from the North Sea to the world’s seas and oceans. As a consequence of the international policies, national management of the marine area under Belgian jurisdiction is firmly rooted in international fora such as the European Commission, having developed several directives on the protection of marine species and habitats, such as the OSPAR Convention for the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic, the Agreement on the conservation of small cetaceans in the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) and the International Whaling Commission(IWC).

The Marine Ecology and Management (MARECO) team of OD Nature provides scientific advice on matters related to marine ecology to the federal government. Members of MARECO participate in scientific discussions in the international fora, and translate the results of these discussions into advice to the relevant government administration. Alongside this, they provide data on species and habitats collected nationally to international databases for a common assessment of the state of the environment. This happens a.o. in the frame of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an organisation that develops scientific techniques and advice to support the sustainable use of the oceans.

Razor clam
In practice

In practice, members of MARECO are active in a number of domains related to biodiversity policy support on seas and oceans. This includes the provision of advice for environmental licensing of offshore industrial activities and in cases of incidents at sea, such as oil pollution and ship collisions. The main aims are to identify threats and provide advice on mitigation and compensation measures for:

  • Species and habitats, including, but not limited to, those under threat and declining; species with specific attention by MARECO are marine mammals, the European oyster, jellyfish and species confined to artificial hard substrates in Belgian waters;
  • Non-indigenous species, and ways of transfer of these to European waters (including for example ships’ hull fouling organisms);
  • Litter on the beach, mainly to assess trends and to help develop measures;
  • Underwater noise, a.o. related to offshore windfarm construction.
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