European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has warned that lack of accessible knowledge is putting a brake on the fishing and maritime economy.
She said: "We are running out of land for food and energy and are increasingly looking to the sea. Some 39 per cent of all new electricity generating capacity installed in Europe in 2009 was wind power. And 10 per cent of it was offshore and this proportion is growing. "
These developments brought not only energy, but also jobs, she maintained. Estimates from the industry suggest that there will be 296,000 employed in offshore wind in Europe by 2030 and 450,000 jobs in wave and tide by 2050.
The Commissioner went on: "As wind energy, also other activities – aquaculture (fish farming) , deep-sea mining - are expanding and industry needs to know what is on the seafloor and in the water.
"Offshore operators need to plan the most suitable sites, to estimate the disturbance to marine life, to operate safely and to reduce the business risk. We have estimated that assembling available fragmented data into coherent maps would result in cost-savings for European offshore activities of three hundred million euro a year.This would open opportunities for new products and services. Better information will also help us protect sensitive habitats and rare species for future generations.
"For all these reasons we embarked on the "marine knowledge 2020" odyssey. 53 organisations – marine institutes, geological surveys and small companies – have come together to make the first steps towards a complete mapping of the European seabed by 2020. It will include water depth, sediments, minerals, chemical pollution and marine species."
It was time to push forward the mapping of the unseen underwater world that, but whose importance and future potential for the marine and fishing industries that people were only now beginning to understand.
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