Partners in an EU-supported initiative have been working to develop e-infrastructure designed to promote better and more sustainable fisheries management, the conservation of living marine resources and collaborative analysis of related environmental and social issues.

iMarine: a Comprehensive Data Platform for the EU Fisheries Sector

EU citizens are fond of fish, eating on average 23.4 kg per person each year, way above the worldwide average consumption of a foodstuff that provides around 20% of the animal protein in the diet of the global population. Meanwhile, although the fishing business is in a fragile situation in the European Union, with shrinking resources and income, the EU fishing fleet is still the second largest in the world, numbering just under 90,000 vessels, employing some 150,000 fishermen who catch around six million tonnes of fish every year, with many more tens of thousands employed in processing and fish farming. Add to this the long-term social and environmental implications of fisheries management, and it is clear that much depends upon a properly-functioning marine ecosystem. Thirteen EU-based partners, well aware of this reality, have been working for the last three years on the development of iMarine. The purpose of this initiative, which is co-funded by the European Commission under the current EU Research & Development programme, is to create an online data platform that will meet the needs of the European fishing industry.  iMarine, which encourages a total ecosystem approach to fisheries management and the conservation of living marine resources, is designed to encourage the development and implementation of practical, sustainable EU policies for this vital sector.

A multi-disciplinary platform

With this goal in mind, the iMarine partners have developed a ‘data e-infrastructure’ which enables the sharing of information and tools. The initiative is managed centrally, drawing together more than 500 source components in a system comprising hardware, software and data resources. It thus provides access to a wide range of resources for the calculation and processing of international data and for data storage. In addition iMarine hosts a catalogue of applications which can be used by those working in the sector to address a wide variety of issues relating to fisheries management, including such diverse topics as marine biodiversity, geomatics and interoperability. The platform also offers data services from a number of suppliers and information systems.

Cross-border and cross-sector collaboration

Apart from providing data sharing infrastructure, iMarine enables collaborative analysis, plus publication and distribution of scientific documents. The initiative is designed to interconnect all the players involved in the various areas of the marine resources sector, fostering data exchange and the development of multidisciplinary knowledge. An iMarine Board has been set up to frame a sustainability-driven data infrastructure governance model, coordinate between the multiple players and initiatives in the many diverse scientific and operational areas, and ensure that the heterogeneous data is made usable by everyone concerned, via a wide range of resources and technologies. Based on the work carried out under this initiative, the Board will be drawing up recommendations for the further organisational and technological development of online infrastructure with open access to data on scientific information in these many related fields.