View graph of relations


Main research question/goal

Through the Habitats Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) the EU member states are obliged to protect specific underwater habitats. For Belgium this concerns Habitat 1110 (shallow sandbanks) and 1170 (gravel beds and Lanice conchilega aggregations). For the protection of these habitats, areas need to be delineated excluding anthropogenic sea bottom disturbance (e.g. fisheries). For this purpose three search zones have been demarcated in the new Marine Spatial Plan (2021-26). Within these areas, we determine the most ecologically valuable zones in a scientifically grounded fashion. In addition, we will determine the economic importance for the fishery member states. Based on this information, we will develop 4 scenarios proposing zones for seabed protection, where the ecological value is maximally safeguarded, while the important economic activities, such as fisheries, are minimally impacted.

Research approach

Together with RBINS, following research tasks will be carried out.

(1)    An update of the habitat suitability maps for macrobenthos and the biological valuation map of 2008 ( This in order to delineate the ecologically most valuable zones.

(2)    An update of the fishing activity executed by the different Member States in the Belgian part of the North Sea. This is in order to map the most economically valuable zones for fishing.

(3)    A risk analysis concerning the sensitivity of the different habitat types (1110 and 1170) in relation to bottom disturbing fisheries.

(4)    The development of 4 scenario's using the MARXAN spatial planning tool, concerning the delineation of potential habitat protection areas where fishing measures will be in place.


The aim of this project is to draw up a scientific dossier for the negotiation of fisheries measures in the Belgian part of the North Sea, as laid down in the Belgian Marine Spatial Plan (2021-26). These negotiations will be conducted at Flemish level and with the European member states in order to produce a joint delegate act for the European Commission. Such a regulation lays down rules and measures that further flesh out previously adopted legislation, in this case in relation to the protection of marine areas.

Funding provider(s)
FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de voedselketen en Leefmilieu
Effective start/end date1/01/2015/06/21

ID: 7797095