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The seas are under pressure. The changing climate changes the habitats. And many interests compete in a confined space: The fishery supplies us with hake, cod or plaice and creates jobs for thousands of people, while at the same time offshore energy is to be generated in the ocean and goods are to be transported by ship. Last but not least, the rivers flow into the sea with their nutrient and pollutant loads.

We therefore ask ourselves: Are the oceans still intact as habitats? How can one solve the various conflicts of use in such a way that we can preserve these valuable ecosystems in the future and use their natural resources sustainably - even if the environmental conditions change? In order to answer these questions, one has to know exactly the state of the oceans, i.e. observe them over a long period of time. To do this, we need reliable data that has been collected in a comparable manner over the years, known as monitoring for short.

In Germany, the Thünen Institute is responsible for large parts of the monitoring of living resources on the high seas. To this end, we not only examine fish stocks and invertebrate organisms, but also record the physical condition of the water body and the seabed. As indicators of environmental pollution, we also determine the frequency of fish diseases, pollutant levels and radioactive substances in fish. This work leads to a dialogue between our scientists and politics and business in order to achieve the jointly formulated goal in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD): By 2020, all European seas should have a “good environmental status”.

Since seas do not end at national borders, it is a European task to sound out the state of the marine environment. The Thünen Institute is deeply integrated with its data collection, analyzes and assessments. Our experts contribute significantly to the development of environmental assessment procedures in international working groups. At the same time, we have to keep an eye on what is happening on our doorstep, i.e. in the German Exclusive Economic Zone in the North and Baltic Seas. In addition to the environmental assessment, this particularly applies to the investigation of climate effects on habitats, communities and fish stocks as well as other anthropogenic influences. These activities help to better predict future developments and to provide fisheries and maritime policy with viable concepts at an early stage.