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ATLAS Deliverable 6.4: Improving business practice and costs through data-sharing and the identification of potential mitigation measures for adaptive marine spatial planning

Henry, L-A; Grehan, A; Vad, J; Roberts, JM

In Europe alone, private companies spent up to €3 billion annually on marine data: collecting it, purchasing it, processing it. This volume of data has huge potential to advance our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems: in fact, many Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) were first discovered by the offshore fisheries, telecommunications, and oil and gas sectors, and more recently while companies explore for potential areas to mine. ATLAS has made substantial in-roads to advance the understanding of ecosystems in the deep North Atlantic. These innovations can be shared with industry to improve business practice by reducing the cost of marine data and the appropriate application of the mitigation hierarchy.
In Deliverable 6.4, ATLAS worked directly with its industry associate partners, Atlantic offshore industries and marine planners, regulators and authorities to disseminate some of its most industry-relevant innovations. Along the way, new data-sharing platforms such as the ATLAS GeoNode have been created to share key ATLAS outputs through the data broker EMODnet, and D6.4 also scoped out barriers within the industry to share privately held environmental data. A total of three industry-focussed international workshops and two questionnaires were implemented between 2016 and 2019. These helped to identify three principles of data-sharing to improve business practice and reduce costs: (1) future-proofing environmental datasets by considering potential future uses and collecting data at the highest possible resolution; (2) data collection techniques need to be standardised to allow comparisons to be made across years and datasets; and (3) the Atlantic community should endeavour to make maps of the seafloor, public assets, as approximately 75% of industry environmental data costs relate to bathymetric and geological data acquisition.
The workshops and questionnaires also led to several ATLAS recommendations to improve business practice and reduce costs around data-sharing. Joint recommendations for industry, academia and other stakeholders include: (1) further scoping of environmental datasets that could be readily shared using EMODnet as a data broker; (2) uptake of ATLAS’ many new modelling techniques, e.g., particle trajectory modelling, species distribution modelling, to help inform industry of possible outcomes of scenarios; (3) strengthening the dialogue between science-industry-regulator to underscore the need to make privately held data more publicly available, e.g., as a regulatory requirement or as a condition of licensing; (4) promoting EMODnet as a data broker; (5) similarly, that EMODnet strengthens proactive engagement with deep and open ocean offshore industries to ensure awareness is raised; (6) highlighting more prominently examples of successful case studies of data-sharing and science- industry partnerships in the deep ocean.
The workshops and questionnaires also led to several ATLAS recommendations to improve business practice and reduce costs around industry’s requirements to avoid, minimise and even restore deep-sea ecosystems, with offsetting also discussed. ATLAS recommendations include: (1) exploring ways to uptake ATLAS products such as maps of the strength, direction, temperature and salinity of large-scale ocean currents and ecological connectivity across the North Atlantic; (2) explore ways to uptake ATLAS products such as models of hydrographic and biogeochemical control of VMEs; (3) increased dialogue with relevant industry fora and ATLAS to strengthen existing and forge new collaborations in data collection; (4) that industry consider more explicitly the information that ATLAS has collected regarding marine ecosystem services in the deep sea, as historically, the lack of such information meant that such services are not considered in industry EIAs; and (5) explore and uptake of ATLAS innovations on the ATLAS GeoNode, as these offer standardised visualisations of geospatial data relevant to marine planning and licensing. 

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