NORTH SEA – Belgian part of the North Sea



Isabelle Rombouts

Belgian part of the North Sea, Ostend
Photo by Emmanuel Codden


Can be regarded as a living lab par excellence as it concerns a small, well-studied and monitored area with an extensive number of human activities. 

Five Natura 2000-Marine Protected Areas are designated, although many with multi-functional use.

Key sectors covered: Fishery, Aquaculture, Tourism, Renewables and mineral extraction.


– Since 2014 Belgium has disposed of a legally binding MSP and is currently implementing a second cycle (2020-2026).

– Good database which contains spatially integrated data layers.


– Some biodiversity aspects are not yet fully considered in the prevailing conservation measures.

– Lack of spatial strategy for pelagic biodiversity conservation (habitat mapping, assessment of vulnerability of pelagic ecosystems to local pressures and climate change, etc.).

– Lack of geographical assessment units for pelagic biodiversity needed for monitoring and reporting in the MSFD.

– While BE MSP is TRL 8-9, MPAs management plans integration in MSP is TRL 6-7, the TRL of the tools that take into account the dynamic nature of MPA’s is at TRL2-3.


– Identify possible additional conservation priorities to underpin the set-up and the efficiency of the current network of MPAs also considering climate change scenarios and potential shifts in ecological responses with a focus on the pelagic ecosystem;

– Test and demonstrate applicability and effectiveness of decision support tools, focussing on the consideration of data on the pelagic ecosystem.

– Support a better inclusion of additional biodiversity, climate change and socio-economic aspects in MPA and MSP process and management

– Contribution to the identification of priority areas for protection of pelagic ecosystems and allocation of research effort and a spatial framework for the monitoring, evaluation and reporting of pelagic biodiversity (as required by the MSFD);

– TRL could be improved to 5-6 in the course of the MSP4BIO.


National MPA/MSP responsible authorities – FPS Environment – Marine Environment, technical and scientific bodies – RBINS (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), monitoring and MSFD reporting, civil society – 4Sea (WWF België, Greenpeace België en Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Natuurpunt), industry, Blauwe Cluster (stakeholders from the blue economy active on the BPNS), regional level – OSPAR.

Get the newest project updates!

Subscribe to MSP4BIO Newsletter