This project is funded by
the European Union

Case study: Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research in the Southern EUropean Seas

project information

PERSEUS addresses the call for an integrated European system for maritime border control. Its purpose is to build and demonstrate an EU maritime surveillance system integrating existing national and communitarian installations and enhancing them with innovative technologies. By means of two large scale demonstrations PERSEUS will prove its feasibility and will set the standards and grounds for the future development of EU maritime surveillance systems. The new maritime surveillance system is expected to increase the effectiveness of the current systems by creating a common maritime information sharing environment for the benefit of the network including National Coordination Centres, Frontex and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The project also envisages collaboration with non-European countries and international agencies such as NATO or the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), among others.


PERSEUS was an EU multidisciplinary research project with the aim to achieve the connection of science and policy and help the countries in the Southern European Seas (SES) to implement as best as possible the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and achieve Good Environmental Status (GES). At the same time, the project tried to engage in this process all levels of society of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Ten interlinking Work Packages have been created under an integrated cluster scheme.
  1. Integrated new KNOWLEDGE (WP1 and WP2): identification of the natural and anthropogenic pressures, understanding their interactions and assessing their impact on the SES ecosystems at basin / sub-basin (WP1) and coastal (WP2) scale. • WP1: Pressures and Impacts at Basin and Sub-basin Scale • WP2: Pressures and Impacts at coastal level
  2. Development of TOOLS to evaluate environmental status using existing and upgraded monitoring and modelling capabilities (WP3, WP4 and WP7). PERSEUS will upgrade, expand and develop the appropriate tools to assist in the evaluation of the environmental status. Tools include observation systems, models and the concept of an innovative survey vessel. • WP3: Upgrade-expand the existing observational systems and fill short term gaps • WP4: Developing integrated tools for environmental assessment • WP7: Concept of an innovative research vessel
  3. POLICIES (WP5 and WP6): Supporting the implementation of the MSFD principles across the SES and development of an appropriate adaptive policy framework. • WP5: Basin-wide promotion of MSFD principles • WP6: Adaptive policies and scenarios
  4. Interaction with USERS (stakeholders) • WP8: Training and Capacity Building
  5. WP9: Communication, Outreach & Information Management
  6. WP10: Project Management
The Knowledge (WP1 and WP2) and “Tools” (WP3, WP4 and WP7) clusters where the core scientific and technological work was carried out advanced the capacity of PERSEUS to support policy-making in the SES with the best possible scientific advice. They delivered results (integrated new knowledge, new data, and new methods) to the Policy cluster (WP5 and WP6) which is central to the project and represents the main driver of PERSEUS promoting and demonstrating the implementation of the MSFD and will develop a new Adaptive Policy Framework. These results were then delivered to the “User” (training and outreach) cluster (WP8 and WP9) which, in turn, enhanced the capacity for science-based policy-making both internally and externally to the PERSEUS consortium and communicate the results to the wider stakeholders’ community. WP10 provided effective and comprehensive project coordination and management. The overall scientific objectives of PERSEUS are to identify the interacting patterns of natural and human-derived pressures on the Mediterranean and Black Seas, assess their impact on marine ecosystems and, using the objectives and principles of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as a vehicle, to design an effective and innovative research governance framework based on solid scientific knowledge.
More specifically, PERSEUS has been structured around the following four scientific objectives:
  1. To identify the interacting patterns of both natural and human-derived pressures on the SES and proceed with the assessment of their impact on the marine ecosystems
  2. To develop tools for the evaluation of the environmental status using existing and upgraded monitoring and modelling capabilities
  3. To implement the principles and objectives put forward in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and promote them across the SES
  4. To create a framework for future implementation of adaptive policies and management schemes

Policy context

Three overarching Marine Policy Frameworks are targeted within the context of this project, which safeguard the SES, as well as Water Framework Directive, Common Fisheries Policy and Habitats Directive. The three Marine Policy Frameworks are: • The Marine Strategy Framework Directive for European waters (MSFD); • The Barcelona Convention and the Mediterranean Action Plan implementing the Ecosystem Approach for the Mediterranean Sea (UNEP/MAP); and • The Bucharest Convention for the Black Sea (BSC). PERSEUS collaborated closely with the Regional Conventions in the SES (UNEP/MAP and Black Sea Commission) and helped to achieve integration by bringing together scientists and decision-makers. It contributed by giving timely and relevant scientific advice to UNEP MAP’s and BSC marine environment’s policy, by providing concrete assessment tools, models, scenarios and methodologies that can be used and enhanced at regional level. For the first time, through the PERSEUS project, science is playing a new role, as partner, in policymaking by developing innovative tools to support policymakers for meeting the objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, as the project is about gathering new knowledge on eco-systems, analyzing the data with new tools and developing recommendations to support policymakers to make new laws based on solid scientific evidence thereby helping to reduce the environmental risks in the SES. The project’s research results provided the solid, scientific foundation to develop new tools for the policymaker, including scenario-based management schemes, as well as a framework of adaptive policies for implementation by countries in the region to meet the objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. More specifically, the development of the Adaptive Marine Policies (AMP) Toolbox assisted policy-makers in facilitating and preparing the future implementation of adaptive policies and management schemes, in view of a better governance of the human-made pressures, achieving or maintaining the GES and enabling the sustainable use of goods and services of marine ecosystems. Therefore, the potential use of the AMP toolbox can alter the way that some countries could achieve marine-related policy options as it provides all the necessary information for the policy makers and the ways to conduct them. In summary, PERSEUS assisted policy makers to: • Broaden their understanding of the dual impact of land/sea pollution, overfishing and other human activities combined with natural pressures, such as climate change, on the SES through science-based evidence. • Enhance their awareness of the status and threats to marine ecosystems in the SES. • Gain knowledge and benefit from innovative tools developed specifically for them, including the APF Tool Box which provided scenario-based, management schemes and adaptive policies towards better governance of the SES. • Collaborate with a network of regional decision-makers and members of the scientific community for establishing a joint approach for implementing the MSFD. PERSEUS also targeted policymakers in non-EU countries by helping them to: • Share knowledge, tools and methods for meeting the objectives of the MSFD. • Take advantage of the opportunity for scientific cooperation and networking. • Contribute expertise and participate in relevant activities and workshops.

environmental impacts

The PERSEUS project created an effective and innovative research-based governance framework able to bring together the scientists and decision-makers and the public to support the Good Environmental Status (GES) across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Southern European Seas-SES). As contamination by chemical pollutants and their effects remains a significant environmental risk in the Mediterranean and Black Sea which are subject to basin-wide transport, redistribution, bio-accumulation and biomagnification, the PERSEUS provided new knowledge regarding their pathways and processes, which are now better understood. PERSEUS provided the analytical tools for the identification and quantification of contaminant inputs and concentrations at scales in different orders of magnitude. The five (5) tools produced by PERSEUS, a result of combined activities between information, modeling efforts and social and economic principles, have a great impact in the sustainable management of the marine ecosystems, e.g. the Tool for the Identification and Assessment of Environmental Aspects in Ports (TEAP), presenting a new methodology, applicable to all types of ports no matter the size or commercial profile. PERSEUS has developed ‘A prototype of an “Early Warning System for Oil Spills” Tool to support national, regional and local authorities, which is capable to provide the decision-makers strategic information regarding environmental and security issues for limiting the damaging effects of oil spills.

socioeconomic impacts

PERSEUS focused on training and capacity building, mainly on young scientists and stakeholders through specially designed summer schools and training courses for professional personnel, thereby aiming to improve and upgrade their current know-how and skills. The overarching objective was to bolster human resources within the SES on themes related to the various stages of the implementation of the MSFD, through training activities focusing on innovative tools in the fields of ecosystem assessment, monitoring and measures towards GES. The implementation of the training activities contributed to a slow but steady shift in the mind-set of those benefitting from such training away from the compartmentalised approach and in favour of research which is more policy-oriented and which addresses the needs of society at large. This was also true by engaging a number of ‘trainees’ from different disciplines and, more importantly, different countries including the non-EU ones. Significant emphasis was given to the training and the communication of the project results to the general public in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and beyond, thereby increasing the existing capacity and supporting in this way the evolution of the “knowledge society” through citizen-science campaigns and outreach activities. Citizen-science campaigns were launched aiming to increase the general public’s awareness and to promote volunteer engagement on environment protection actions. The development of a “Clean Seas Communication & Outreach Best Practice Guide” prioritised the communication and awareness raising that can improve general public behaviour and reduce human pressures. In addition, the project acknowledged the importance of the younger generation in shaping the future, and PERSEUS aimed to involve schools and educators, through the creation of an ocean literacy programme. It brought about and provided the opportunity for scientific cooperation and networking between scientists and stakeholders from EU MS and non-EU countries, created a platform for strengthening human capacity building in interdisciplinary science and enhanced the involvement of researchers in policy-related, science-based management as a two-way process towards achievement of GES and the long-term objectives for sustainable management of the SES. At countries’ level, PERSEUS provided the means to enhance collaboration and networking between and within countries through the established stakeholders’ platforms, bringing, in some cases, different user groups together to discuss MSFD issues in workshops, meetings and summer schools. In summary the socioeconomic impacts of PERSEUS were: a) strengthening of human resources within the SES riparian countries, through formal training, with respect to themes related to the GES under the MSFD/EcAP. b) building a bridge with key stakeholders engaged in marine policy formulation within the same marine regions. Key stakeholders were engaged in the training activities in order to synchronise PERSEUS initiatives within ongoing programmes. c) liaising closely with UNEP-MAP’s EcAp initiative and with UNEP-MAP’s Monitoring Correspondence Group (CORMON).

key lessons

The contribution of and lessons learnt from PERSEUS can be summarised as follows: • It provided assessments of the current situation, identified the gaps, needs and risks, providing new scientific knowledge and recommendations. As PERSEUS worked on all the descriptors of the MSFD, gaps, needs and risks could be a valuable reference for future projects. • It collaborated across national, regional and continental borders through its research community and stakeholders, specifically incorporating the Black Sea and the Southern Mediterranean region. • It developed innovative tools for monitoring, assessment and evaluation. • It developed attractive educational campaigns and scientific literature targeting different societal groups

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