CoCoNET Press Release 1(1)
22 Countries 39 Institutions and more than 400 scientists get together for the future of European Seas
The EU dedicated €9 million to multidisciplinary research to set up guidelines for "Marine Protected Areas" in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
The CoCoNET Project, (Coast to Coast NETworks) which aims to increase the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Mediterranean and Black Sea and to display the potential of the Off-Shore Wind Farm in these seas started with the kick-off meeting on 27-28 February in Rome. CoCoNET, which is going to last for 4 years, is the second biggest marine research project of EU under the 7th Framework Programme with a budget of € 9 million after the Perseus Project.
CoCoNET will identify groups of interconnected MPA's in the Mediterranean and Black Seas shifting from local to regional and basin scales. The identification of physical and biological connections will clarify the processes that govern patterns of biodiversity distribution. This will enhance policies of effective environmental management, thereby ascertaining if the existing MPAs are sufficient for ecological networking and suggesting how to design further protection schemes, based on effective exchange between protected areas.
The project includes 22 countries and involves more than 400 researchers from 39 institutions covering a vast array of subjects developing a timely holistic approach and integrating the Mediterranean and Black Seas scientific communities through intense collective activities with stakeholders and the public at large.
The project will produce the guidelines to design, manage and monitor networks of MPAs and an enriched wind atlas for both Mediterranean and the Black Seas.
CoCoNET has 11 Work Packages including habitat mapping, state of knowledge, data integration and scenarios of protection, scenarios of environmental change (natural and human induced), socio-economic issues legislation, and Off-Shore Wind Farms (OWF).
Today Europe derives 20 % of electricity from Renewable Energy Sources (RES). According to the Renewable Energy Directive, 34% of EU's total electricity consumption will come from RES in 2020. But the European Environmental Agency's projection shows that in order to reach this target off-shore wind energy capacity should be increased 17-fold until 2020. Consequently, OWF is one the most important segments of CoCoNET.
Jacques Fuchs (Head of Sector, European Commission RTD E4) explain:
There are two ideas behind this CoCoNET Project. The first is to develop a network of Marine Protected Areas, which are closed areas where you can protect marine areas and better manage activity instead of having smaller Marine Protected Areas. The idea is to have a network of different protected areas to link them together to be more efficient. The second idea is to combine the project with wind energy. We are developing a plan for generating energy from the sea. We should also make sure that we develop this Project not only for the northern coast of the Mediterranean but also for the southern Mediterranean countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco.
Dr. Ferdinando Boero (Project Leader, Coordinator for the National Research Council of Italy) stated:
This is a unifying concept throughout these countries when we speak about seas, environment and ecology. It is the same in Turkey, in Israel and in Italy. There are no barriers, we speak about the same things without prejudice; and for this reason I think this is a very good practice. We will create a force of scientists who will work for the society and for allowing the decision makers to have solid scientific evidence on which they will base their choices in the future. The goal is to inform the decision makers of what's best for our seas.
Dr. Takvor Soukissian (Hellenic Center for Marine Research) stated:
We want to estimate the spatial distribution of the available off-shore wind power potential over the Mediterranean and Black Seas under current and future climate conditions. Along with that, during the same procedure hot-spots for potential OWF development will be identified. The second aim is to provide knowledge of existing and in-progress technology of off-shore wind farm elements and off-shore wind turbines and finally we want to develop the smart wind chart for the entire Mediterranean and Black Seas.
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