Launch Compendium for Coast and Sea 2018 | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

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Launch Compendium for Coast and Sea 2018

Ostend (2018.11.28) - On Friday 7 December the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) will launch the Compendium for Coast and Sea 2018 in Ostend. This 'bible' of the Belgian marine research has been developed in close collaboration with more than 150 experts and provides an overview of marine knowledge in Flanders and Belgium. The figures illustrate how a growing number of marine scientists are committed to respond to the challenges of so-called Blue Growth and the theme of sustainability in our seas and ocean. In the run-up to the UN 'Decade of the Ocean Sciences' (2021-2030), it is clear that our country is in a pole position to profile itself as a maritime knowledge region.

Press release by: Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)

The feelings can run up high when it concerns the sea and coast in Belgium. Last summer there was the intensive debate about the test island off the coastal municipality of Knokke-Heist. Meanwhile, the Belgian government received thousands (!) of submissions on the public consultation for the new Marine Spatial Planning (2020-26). Also at European level things are moving. The maritime industry is emerging as a growth pole and the so-called Blue Growth strategy shows dizzying turnover and employment figures. Rather than seeing our North Sea as a new haven, the Blue Growth in Flanders mainly focusses on knowledge building, and the demonstration and marketing of this expertise.

The newly presented Compendium for Coast and Sea 2018 shows a diverse Belgian marine research landscape, with no less than 114 research groups. Together they account for 1.600 scientists, half of them (856) associated with a Flemish university association. Moreover, this marine research capacity at our universities and scientific institutions shows a clear growth in recent years. On a global scale, only Norway scores better if we weigh the number of marine researchers against the total population (Global Ocean Science Report 2017). This is no coincidence. As a small country, Belgium owes much of its prosperity, also historically, to its location in the southern bight of the North Sea. The role of our ports and the strong position of world players in the dredging industry are illustrative in this context. Our country can also boast of a very long tradition in marine research. For example, the ‘Laboratoire des Dunes’ (1843) in Ostend – erected by the Belgian Professor Pierre-Joseph Van Beneden (1809-1894) – is known as the first marine research station in the world.

This growing marine research landscape has many assets. The publication output is excellent and places Flanders and Belgium at the level of the large marine research centers in our neighboring countries. In addition, the available expertise is highly diverse: from the social importance of mangrove areas in Asia and Africa, the international legislation on underwater heritage, and knowledge of ecosystem services in European estuaries, to the navigability of the Panama Canal. Furthermore, the marine researchers have an above-average international focus. They have organized themselves excellently in prestigious networks and organizations such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

This marine scientific expertise forms an objective basis in the social debate. It is also a prerequisite to strategically deploy on cases involving maximum valorisation of this knowledge and striving for sustainability. The United Nations is currently preparing for its 'Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development' (2021-2030). The importance of marine science and innovation will increase strongly all over the world. This is the only way to deal with a number of global challenges such as climate change and the marine litter problem. The Flemish and Belgian marine researchers are ready.

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