The objectives of COFASP is to strengthen cooperation and synergies between major European funding agencies that support research on sustainable exploitation of marine renewable resources with the aim:

  1. To lay the basis for exploitation according to the precautionary principles and to enhance innovation in and competitiveness of the primary sectors fisheries and aquaculture as well as subsequent seafood processing and distribution to the consumer;
  2. To define the science, information and data necessary to underpin the revision of the CFP and to ensure its successful implementation by designing complementary national research programmes and outlining monitoring and information/data sharing systems needed.

In objective 1 focus will be placed on:

  • the implementation of innovative fishing and aquaculture technology to enhance yield from exploited marine living resources in terms of quantity, quality and economy, and the development of technology to allow ecologically and economically sustainable utilisation of presently unexploited marine living resources, both in close cooperation with the new European Fisheries Technology Platform (EFTP) and the Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform (EATIP); • the implementation of the utilization of the resources in an integrated context of nature conservation and resource exploitation, i.e. the implementation of the ecosystem approach, e.g. in dialogue with Regional Advisory Councils (RAC), Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and NGOs;
  • the implementation of innovative seafood production technology in the entire production chain to ensure healthy and high quality seafood in cooperation with industry, e.g. represented by Europêche, the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC);
  • to improve transport from processor to consumer with minimum loss of quality including traceability through the production chain in cooperation with the processing industry (AIPCE) and the European Federation of National Organisations of Importers and Exporters of Fish (CEP) as well as MSC and ASC;
  • mapping and foresight analyses of opportunities and challenges to develop, acquire and implement required technology in cooperation with international organisations coordinating science such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the European Fisheries and Aquaculture Organisation (EFARO) and the European Aquaculture Society (EAS) as well as other cooperation partners listed above;
  • outline necessary education and training of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs in development, implementation and utilisation of these technologies based on cooperation with ICES and EAS.

Strong involvement of stakeholders is planned not only at European level, but also at regional and national scale. Beyond participation in workshops and meetings and an Expert Advisory Group with a broad stakeholder representation (policy, research, industry, consumer and environmental NGOs) , COFASP will set-up a specific Industry Stakeholder Group giving guidance on sector industry stakeholder involvement and utilization of their knowledge in the ERA-NET.

Objective 2 focuses primarily on policy development, resource management and regulations, following various EU and national policies and directives, first of all the Common Fisheries Policy, the EU Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The policy framework for fisheries and aquaculture management in the European Union is the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), presently under revision, with its fundamental pillars being 1. the Ecosystem Approach and 2. the Precautionary Approach. The revised CFP (COM(2009)163) envisages an increased industry involvement, taking more responsibility for sustainable development of the sector. Finally it stresses the importance of implementation in a regional approach.

The Ecosystem Approach to fisheries management requires the implementation of the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) Concept, which emerged from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. It furthermore requires integration with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), a requirement in fact existing for all human activities, i.e. also aquaculture. The building of a resource-efficient Europe goes beyond MSY and science efforts should consider focus on the impact on living resources interaction (e.g. between aquaculture and forage fish fisheries) and effects onto the entire value chain in the bio-economy.

Following the Precautionary Approach requires handling of various uncertainties in relation to living resource dynamics and their utilization, but as well consideration of direct and indirect feedback effects of fisheries and aquaculture on ecosystems, e.g. food webs and biogeochemical cycles, and interactions with other natural and human drivers of changes, e.g. climate change eutrophication and habitat use. In objective 2 COFASP will on basis of results achieved by the ERA-NET MariFish address these fisheries and aquaculture policy issues:

  • the implementation of the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) Concept, i.e. optimize ecological, economic and social output in a changing world and elucidate implications for monitoring, e.g. the DCF and EMODNET, assessment and management systems;
  • implementation of fisheries and aquaculture into the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), i.e. identify and describe their impact on ecosystem structure and functioning as well as testing, refinement and monitoring of pressure and ecosystem state indicators, through e.g. the Data Collection Framework (DCF), see Commission Decision 2008/949/EC26;
  • addressing the Precautionary Approach by improved handling of uncertainty, first trying to reduce observation and process related uncertainties and secondly estimating and including uncertainties, biases or trends also in implementation of management measures and compliance by the industry in model frameworks and decision support tools;
  • development of decision support tools; from indicator traffic light approaches to management evaluation frameworks allowing to analyse the entire biological production, exploitation and management process including ecological and economic consequences;
  • to improve regional management systems by delegating responsibility to fishing, aquaculture and seafood industry in monitoring and assessment, identification of incentives for compliance, designing management plans and testing rights based management. Again, cooperation with stakeholders, e.g. Commission staff from DG MARE, ESF Marine Board, Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO), such as NEAFC, and national management authorities will be important to reach the policy related objectives outlined above. Consequently, COFASP will set-up a specific Industry Stakeholder Group giving guidance on stakeholder involvement and utilization of their knowledge in the ERA-NET.

Further objectives

Development of the aquaculture ERA

Although aquaculture is an integral part of the CFP since its revision in 2002, policy development for aquaculture in European sea areas is in its infancy. The EU Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture (COM(2002) 511) and the more recent issued Commission Communication on Aquaculture (COM(2009)162), identify a number of challenges in building the future aquaculture industry: i) environmental performance including sustainable feeds, ii) competition for space, iii) securing animal health and welfare and iv) ensuring consumer health protection and traceability. European cooperation in aquaculture science is increasing especially fostered through topics under FP6 and 7. The present revision of the CFP foresees following actions:

  • establishing EU strategic guidelines on common priorities and targets for the development of aquaculture activities by 2013;
  • establishing multiannual national strategic plans for the development of aquaculture activities through member states on their territory by 2014;
  • exchange of information and best practices through an open method of coordination of the national measures contained in multiannual strategic plans.

None of the earlier or presently running ERA-NETs has covered aquaculture to a sufficient extend to contribute to the above process. Although it is included in the work programme of ERA-NETs such as MARTEC 2, CORE Organic 2, SEAS-ERA, no consolidated effort has been conducted to cover the worldwide most rapidly developing food production sector. Therefore, COFASP is to contribute to the establishment of a well-functioning European Aquaculture Research Area, requiring enhanced cooperation of research program funders both with respect to Innovation and Policy underpinning science to overcome the fragmented, isolated and small-scale approaches taken in several European countries with the goal to enhance European Aquaculture competitiveness.

COFASP will also contribute to the development of national multi-annual strategic plans by identifying research needs and priorities as well as cooperation and coordination processes in cooperation with the European Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Organization (EFARO), the European Aquaculture Society (EAS) and the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP).

Development of the Seafood production ERA

With respect to Seafood production, a large-scale research and coordination effort has been conducted within the FP6 Seafood+ project, with a running follow-up coordination initiative from project partners representing research institutions. However, attempts of aligning or coordinating national research programs are virtually lacking, although the new ERA-NET SUSFood address generic aspects of seafood production, implying a need to establish cooperation between national programme owners and managers in the seafood production research area, being a specific objective of COFASP.

Interdisciplinary approach

Crucial for success of the CFP is the prolongation of the time-horizon of management plans and impact assessments for both fisheries and aquaculture activities. This includes consideration of drives being out of management control, such as climate change and its effects on ecosystems, species interactions and resource dynamics, however also consideration of social and economic drivers of exploitation and economic output of fisheries or aquaculture activity. As MariFish has identified, this requires cooperation between different science disciplines, which has made progress in fisheries research through the last decade, but is still characterized by rather a parallel than a cooperation approach and is certainly underdeveloped in aquaculture and seafood science. Thus, COFASP will contribute to enhance cooperation between European life-, environmental-, economic- and social-science dealing with fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing.

Transfer of results into application

Transfer of results from EU research projects into application, either enhancing production or assessment and management of marine living resources has been continuously questioned throughout the last decade, a challenge also identified by MariFish for fisheries research. Therefore, it is an objective of COFASP to trace achievements, success and failures in FP5, FP6 and FP7 fisheries, aquaculture and seafood research projects and analyze best practice with the aim to develop guidelines to be integrated into future grant agreements ensuring transfer of project results to industry, assessment, management and policy development. Marine spatial planning Finally, an integrated approach to the management of living resources is required for the development of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy (COM (2007)575) and should be underpinned by cross-sectorial science following the approach outlined by the European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research (COM(2008)534). This strategy addresses the tremendous challenge of optimizing the utilization of marine space, i.e. prioritizing or in the best case common utilization of marine living resources and maritime space within environmental limits defined by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and complementing environmental directives. COFASP will map, summarize and communicate existing and help outlining future research programmes addressing maritime spatial planning and contribute to initiatives considering the entire front of marine and maritime research, such as the Joint Programming Initiative on “Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans” and the overarching ERA-NET SEAS-ERA as well as other cross-sectorial initiatives such as the Marine and Maritime Science and Technology Forum emerging from the MARCOM+ project.