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Maritime Forum

Minutes of the 21st Marine Observation and Data Group (MODEG) Meeting

Date: 19-20 February 2014

Location: EMODnet Secretariat Office, InnovOcean site Oostende (Belgium)

Minutes Prepared by the EMODnet Secretariat

Go to Meeting Agenda and Presentations

Meeting Participants
























EMODnet Secretariat






EMODnet Steering Committee



MODEG (Chairman)





De Boer



















EMODnet Steering Committee



EMODnet Steering Committee







Cristina Amil














EMODnet Steering Committee



EMODnet Steering Committee



EMODnet Secretariat















EMODnet Steering Committee






EMODnet Steering Committee






EMODnet Steering Committee




Day 1 - 19 February 2014

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome and introduction to the meeting by MODEG Chair and EMODnet Secretariat. The main purpose of the meeting is to review (i) the status of the EMODnet thematic lots and their current progress; and (ii) other major developments such as the draft EC Marine Knowledge 2020 Roadmap and IC-IHO collaboration.

All participants were cordially invited to the evening ceremony and reception at the occasion of the EMODnet Secretariat Office inauguration.

Thematic Lots Session

Lot 1 Bathymetry

The current project (EMODnet Phase 2 from 2013-2016) will build on the work completed in the pilot phase (EMODnet Phase 1 from 2009-2013), with a focus on providing higher resolution datasets and data products (~250m compared to ~450m), extending the geographical scope to all European sea basins and providing coastal data products.

The project is actively developing new partnerships (e.g. for areas with limited data such as the Black Sea) and collaborations with global data providers such as GEBCO. Training workshops have taken place and will continue to be organized to disseminate a common methodology amongst the partner consortium.

Future work will concentrate on developing (i) ‘plug-in’ extensions tools for users of proprietary software; (ii) investigate crowdsourcing as a method to collate data; and (iii) further explore additional 3D visualization services. The next major updates will be made available via the EMODnet-bathymetry portal by mid June 2014.

Questions and Comments

Nature of quality assessment of the data product deliverables: there is no quality index (considered unfeasible) but an indication of quality is provided at grid cell level, with the users being able to link to the metadata for the main survey used for that area, which provides further information on the source. The Digital Terrain Model (DTM) product is not a one-off static product but is being updated every year with new information.

To ensure the quality of crowdsourcing information only a minimum level of parameters would be collected with the initial submission; additional information would be collected by direct follow-up with the user.

Extension of the project to include the coastal area was welcomed. This work is still in its early phase and would start with three pilot areas (France, Italy, Ireland) to trial data and methodology.

Currently there is no age limit on the data utilized; the best available data that is available is being used; at this time there is no inclusion of data from industry.

Lot 2 - Geology

The deliverables of the current Phase 2 project are maps (1:250,000 scale) on seabed and coastal geology characteristics. In addition, a baseline Quaternary map will be produced (beyond the contractual obligations). The work will include an audit of available national data, integration with other thematic lots (e.g. seabed habitats) and engagement with third parties (e.g. industry) for minerals. The website will also be improved with additional web services. The project will look into the technical feasibility and best method to provide users with access to underlying higher resolution information starting from harmonized maps.

Questions and Comments

Regarding reference materials for coastal area habitat descriptions and the definition of a seabed: the information used in EMODnet products is provided through national level organizations where the designated authorities are responsible for taking into account all the sources available for their country. Definition of the seabed does vary compared to - for example - EMODnet Biology: for geology the current definition of a seabed includes 30cm of depth (from surface), but this resolution could be increased over time.

Lot 3 - Seabed habitats

The focus of the current project is to cover all the European basins and improve the maps created in the pilot projects, as well as to assess the feasibility of providing higher resolution habitat maps in the future.

The work is largely based on the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) classification but this systems needs to be adapted to allow characterization of other seabasins. This requires restructuring and redefining the classification thresholds, a process currently ongoing under the aegis of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

EMODnet Seabed habitats is heavily dependent on the provision of information (primary data layers) from the other thematic lots (in particular EMODnet Bathymetry, Physics and Biology). The resolution of key data layers from several of the thematic lots is currently insufficient for developing better seabed habitat maps.

The main challenges are the information gaps, the resolution of information available for certain geographical regions and parameters, and the upheaval of the EUNIS classification changes.

Questions and Comments

Attention was drawn to the ‘static’ nature of the seabed habitat maps versus dynamic sea-basins such as the Black Sea. MODEG recommended contacting the Black Sea Commission, who have worked on the production of a habitat map for the north-western area as part of the work to monitor the recovery of the Black Sea.

The anticipated changes will affect the entirety of the EUNIS classification as the structure will be adapted. This entails removing extra layers in the hierarchy of the classification which should increase efficiency and allow for the introduction of biogeographic information.

MODEG recommended contacting the Norwegian Institute for Water (NIVA) regarding gaps for the northern areas.

Light is an important biological parameter. It is often defined or quantified to a certain depth (up to the point where most vegetation stops), but the aim of the project will be to use actual energy through the use of a model of the spectral irradiance of the sun.

Lot 4 - Chemistry

The project will cover all European sea-basins and add new discovery parameters. The number of partners has doubled compared to the pilot phase.

Establishing the boundaries for the European sea-basins has been a major challenge: the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) boundaries are still in draft form, containing discrepancies and some regions are lacking. It is not clear when this will be resolved.

Questions and Comments

Integration and engagement with the MSFD process: the discovery parameters made available are linked to parameters that feed into the indicators (e.g. eutrophication, contamination). There will be different data products made available depending on the homogeneity of the parameters.

The lack of clear sea-basin boundaries is recognized as common issue by all EMODnet thematic lots.

Lot 5 - Biology

The EMODnet Biology portal provides access to data on a wide range of species, including fish but does not deal with data on fish species collected through the Common Fisheries Policy Data Collection Framework. Currently, the project is assessing the available databases (including datasets that will be used for creation of products) that will allow ‘quarantining’ records with limited or mixed species information. In addition, the project is also identifying potentially interesting historical datasets (e.g. from Russia).

MSFD indicators will influence the prioritization of the species data collection. Recently EMODnet biology acquired the FP7 Devotes project ( database, which lists existing indicators submitted by Member States. EIONET (European Environment Information and Observation Network) will also be consulted with regards to the official indicators of Member States.

The creation of gridded abundance data products is another new deliverable of the current project. The methodology to create this data product has been tested with species with most data in EMODnet system. Work on the production of dynamic time series maps (density distribution/seasonal) is currently under evaluation.

Questions and comments

Involvement of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES): it was highlighted that ICES are partners and that information from the ICES database feeds into the EMODnet data products.

There is a threshold for error levels for products created using extrapolated data with the DIVA software tool (Data-Interpolating Variational Analysis); if this value is exceeded these areas will be removed/masked in the final product.

Current dynamic time series maps are trials that would need to be further refined with additional data and validated by experts. The current distribution is based on specific data collection methods and does not include any of the available commercial fisheries data, hence some areas are not fully reflective of the actual situation. It was re-affirmed that integration of commercial fisheries data with the EMODnet project remains a priority for DG MARE.

Lot 6 - Physics

The main objective of current efforts is to ensure free open access to real-time and archived marine data on physical parameters through a single point of access. To achieve this, EMODnet Physics works on re-enforcing existing systems and encouraging collaborations/interlinks between them. The main focus for Phase 2 is to fully engage the Regional Ocean Observing System (ROOS) network.

The new upgraded EMODnet Physics viewing portal and the different user pathways to access and download data were illustrated with screenshots (

Questions and Comments

Development of a Single Sign-On (SSO) is currently being addressed by MyOcean and SEADataNet. It is also a task of the Ad Hoc Technical User Working Group to discuss implementation across EMODnet.

EMODnet Physics collaborates with other thematic lots though this needs to increaser in particular to integrate parameters into other data deliverables.

Partners will be mobilized to strengthen dissemination work to attract new users and stakeholders (extending from institutions to marine/maritime companies and industry). A suggestion was made that this could be achieved through ensuring links on the partner websites, in addition to the wider proposed communication as part of the Secretariat Communication Strategy.

Lot 7 - Human Activity

This project covers the only new theme in Phase 2 and hence no (pilot) portal is online yet (launch foreseen in March 2014). Currently the project is acquiring datasets for targeted activities.

The main challenge has been to overcome data permission restrictions by data providers for what is considered ‘sensitive’ information (e.g. shipping, pipelines and cables). Automatic Identification System (AIS) shipping data has been acquired for UK only (MMO open sources) but this approach can potentially be expanded to EU.

Other challenges include (i) lack of definition for certain activities in the original tender (e.g. cultural heritage and other areas) and (ii) lack of WMS or WFS services by data providers to allow access to the databases through the portal which should act as a gateway (to avoid having to store the information locally). The approach is to source EU level data first; if this is not available then national datasets are combined, but this requires a data harmonization process which can be complex.

Questions and Comments

Information is collected on both dredging and aggregate extraction, extraction of non-energy minerals is outside the contractual obligations. Some of the data is held under commercial license, so updates need to be secured at the initial acquisition stage.

The protected areas category incorporates information held by Natura 2000; data found outside EU boundaries will still be incorporated. Data on shipping, pipeline and cables is considered essential information for, e.g. the sea-basin checkpoints, but these datasets are challenging to acquire. DG MARE is aware of these issues and is investigating solutions to facilitate access.

Day 2 - 20 February 2014

Marine Knowledge 2020 impact assessment and roadmap

DG MARE presented an overview of the draft Marine Knowledge 2020 roadmap and its main objectives: strengthen links between relevant EU initiatives (e.g. EMODnet, Copernicus, …), improve understanding of the observation/monitoring requirements to assist Member States in fulfilling their obligations and increase engagement with the private sector.

DG MARE is currently investigating options to make (raw and aggregated) fisheries data more readily available, preferably through incentive based mechanisms.

The roadmap aims to re-enforce EMODnet as a gateway to marine data and define a process to make it as easy as possible for any type of user to submit data to EMODnet, including data from Horizon 2020 projects and from industry (e.g. as part of the licensing process).

The Commission will launch calls for tender later in 2014 for additional EMODnet sea-basin checkpoints (Atlantic, Arctic, Baltic and Black Sea) with three-year projects.

Questions and Comments

Experiences from the Marine Science and Technology Programme (MAST) (3rd Framework Programme) indicate that the key challenge is not technology but the cost involved in data submission and management. Hence, data submission and management should be an obligation but needs to be backed up by financial resources as part of the overall budget.

It was recommended to use as much as possible existing systems (e.g. National Data Centres, PANGAEA, …) rather than creating other portals or data repositories to ensure longer term sustainability. In addition, accreditation is key when data gets submitted and stored and this is may be more complicated when providing data to a central system.

The lack of inclusion of fisheries data was considered problematic as it is data that average EU citizens are most likely to look for and understand. It was suggested to start with coarse level of information from non-protected datasets rather than wait until individual level vessels information can be released. DG MARE outlined that the European Atlas of the Seas already collates fisheries information on stocks into electronic form. DG MARE is working with data protection supervisors to assess up to which level individual vessel information can be considered personal data.

MODEG noted a lack of linkage/connection in the roadmap to the rest of the world and lack of long-term vision. It was suggested to include a reference to the international dimension of data submission, management and access, highlighting the need to collaborate in a global framework.

Update from the EMODnet Mediterranean sea-basin checkpoint

Currently the project focus is on a literature survey to assess data availability and monitoring systems to satisfy specific end-user needs (the checkpoint challenges) and development of the portal.

For each checkpoint challenge, different input requirements and the proposed data sources (EMODnet, Copernicus etc.) have been identified. The oil spill response challenge requires data in ‘real time’ ‘on demand’ while other challenges will be based on historical, observational and modelling information.

Questions and Comments

The coordinator confirmed links with the North Sea sea-basin checkpoint in addition to collaborations with EMODnet thematic lots.

Updates from the 1st EMODnet Steering Committee Meeting

The Secretariat provided an overview of the EMODnet Steering Committee composition (all thematic lot coordinators) and its mandate (to exchange information and guide the development of the entry portal).

The first EMODnet Steering Committee Meeting (16-17 December 2013, Brussels) focused on progress indicators, development of the central portal (use case studies) and the establishment of two ad hoc working groups (the Ad Hoc Technical and User Working Groups).

Questions and Comments

Comments were made with regards to the need for training of end-users and evaluation of the data products. The Secretariat outlined that the ad hoc users working group will be evaluating EMODnet deliverables and review the use case studies. Demonstrations of EMODnet portals will be made at different events across Europe in the coming 18 months.

Status and progress of the central EMODnet portal

The Flemish Marine Institute (VLIZ) provided an overview of the central portal status and work plan. The technical development of the use case studies will be supported by the Ad Hoc Technical Working Group to ensure harmonization across the thematic lots.

Questions and Comments

A request was made to include the sea-basin checkpoint technical leaders as members of the Ad Hoc Technical Working Group. This was approved by common consensus.

Thematic lot coordinators inquired whether the central portal could be used as platform for online collaboration (exchange of files and ideas). While this may technically be possible, the Secretariat re-iterated that up to now the Maritime Forum had been promoted for this function. Currently the Maritime Forum is being updated/redesigned by DG MARE and the new version should allow more flexibility and additional functionality (e.g. stronger integration with social media). The Secretariat proposes to wait until the updated version is released to consider the most appropriate tools for both internal and external communication purposes.

Further clarification was requested on the need for a coastal use case study. VLIZ highlighted that coastal data and data products fall under the contractual obligations of some of the thematic lots, and in terms of maritime policy this is an essential area to cover. Suggestions for selected and potential future case studies are welcome and can be emailed to the Secretariat.

EMODnet Communication Strategy

The Secretariat outlined its communication strategy as requested at the previous MODEG meeting (October 2013, Brussels). It was emphasized that external communication of the ‘EMODnet brand’ is a shared responsibility with the thematic lots, and their partner consortia. To re-enforce the EMODnet Community, an event will be planned for 2015 to include the entire partner consortium.

There were no questions with regards to the proposal; consensus to go ahead.

EC-IHO meeting update

The International Hydographic Organization (IHO) presented the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between EU and IHO that was signed in April 2012. The IHO working group on EU matters has a mandate to provide support to specific EU projects, one of them being EMODnet.

The IHO objectives are to avoid duplication and promote synergies and use of best practices through utilisation of the IHO regional components. IHO is committed to supporting EMODnet and offers their members’ expertise in Quality Assurance / Quality Control (QA/QC). Additionally IHO wishes to establish EMODnet as the marine component of the European sector of the Global Geospatial Information Management (GGIM-Europe) and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-Europe), which is a worldwide effort to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

IHO will explore future synergies with the EMODnet thematic lots and provide input as part of the preparation of the 3rd EMODnet call for proposals.

Questions and Comments

Overall consensus that EU-IHO initiative is off great benefit to EMODnet.

Regarding QA/QC procedures, the IHO outlined that liability for data products produced from IHO data resides with the IHO. Therefore it is imperative for IHO involvement/contributions that all EMODnet data and data products attain the highest standards. The aim is not to monopolise but to complement existing work.

Amendments to the rules of procedure, draft Terms of Reference

The Secretariat clarified that currently MODEG operates with outdated rules of procedure and without a Terms of Reference. Several members of MODEG and the EMODnet Steering Committee have asked for clarification on the mandate and procedures of MODEG, re-enforcing the need for an overall framework to clarify the objectives, roles and responsibilities of the members as well as provide a transparent basis for the operation of the expert group. In collaboration with the Commission, it has been decided that this will be done but only when the future scope and memberships requirements of MODEG are clarified, in particular with regards to the nature and extended coverage of a future advisory group on European marine data and observations.

Selection of the New MODEG Chair

At the last MODEG Meeting the Chair announced his intention to step down. However, because MODEG is expected to change in composition and scope in the near future, the current Chair was invited to remain in post during the transition period until a new advisory body was established. There was a common consensus that the current chair did an outstanding job and his willingness to stay on during the transition period was welcomed and approved.

Interaction with other organizations

The Secretariat outlined that it had been approached by BONUS (Joint Baltic Sea Research Programme) - a joint research and development programme which address the major challenges faced by the Baltic Sea region) - to investigate synergies with EMODnet. In addition, the Secretariat proposed that it would be beneficial for a representative of IODE-IOC to attend MODEG.

Questions and Comments

It was agreed to invite representatives of BONUS and IODE-IOC to the next MODEG meeting and to promote further hybridization of projects with other organizations and national or regional programs, such as Accobams (Agreement of the conservation of Cetaceans of Black Sea, Mediterreanean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area). In the meantime, the Secretariat will organize a working meeting with BONUS to discuss how the metadata-catalogue from BONUS research projects can best be taken up in the relevant EMODnet data systems.


The Secretariat was asked about participation at outreach events. The Secretariat outlined that it is contractually obliged to conduct a total of 20 demonstrations, with the first one being planned for the Maritime Day in Bremen in collaboration with DG MARE and the European Atlas of the Sea. Suggestions on opportunities to participate in future events are most welcome and should be sent to the Secretariat.

EMODnet thematic lots are often less visible than some of the data projects that feed into them. It was recommended to mobilise the 120+ partner organizations to promote EMODnet more actively, for example by hyperlinking to EMODnet on their own websites. The Secretariat will take this up as an action for the next Steering Committee Meeting.

Next MODEG Meeting (date and location)

It was proposed to hold the next meeting in June, data to be confirmed. The possibility to adjoin to other meeting such as DIKE or IHO or the EMODnet steering committee meetings will be investigated.

Secretariat post-meeting note: due to administrative reasons, it will not be possible to organize a MODEG meeting before the summer 2014. Hence, the Secretariat will investigate options for a meeting in September/October 2014 to be held in Brussels (Belgium).