Ecosystem Approach Community of Practice: iMarine Business Cases

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Business Cases Summary

The iMarine Business Cases (BC's) cover the rationale behind the decision process that govern the selection of the business cases to support and it will illustrate the features of the third and unselected business case that could be addressed in the remaining selected business cases.

The Business Cases in iMarine serve several important purposes, even if they are not immediate drivers of activities. The Business Cases are where the outcome of activities can become evident, and will be 'measurable'. The brackets here are needed since the tools are not equipped with standardized features to measure their uptake, use and impact.

Throughout the life-cycle of the iMarine Project, the BC's purpose changes, and therefore require that the mediation and governance processes that aim to realize them evolve accordingly. The iMarine Board has a role in safeguarding that the overall activity in the project are beneficial to the realization of the Business Cases. The

The overall purpose of the BC's over the life-time of the iMarine project can be aligned with the themes of the planned iMarine Board meetings:

  • iMB1; Mobilization of Board and identification of opportunities for collaboration and technologies;
    • Identification of Board members;
    • Identification of members' main interests;
    • Identification of Board members potential role and activity in the iMarine project.
  • iMB2; Stabilization of opportunities and defining the technology scope;
    • Discuss technology proposals to BC objectives, and review progress made
    • Define a iMarine Board work-plan with Board objectives
  • iMB3; Experimentation with technologies, and expansion of EA-CoP;
    • Report on experimental use of software, and infrastructure design;
    • Present draft of imarine data access and sharing policies.
  • iMB4; Validation of collaboration structures and EA-Cop requirements consolidation;
    • Report on products of validated activities for e.g. Trendylyzer, SPD, SmartFish
    • report on progress towards exploitation objectives for e.g. Cotrix, fishFrame, VALID, BiOnym.
    • Present elaborated version of Data Access and Sharing Policy.
  • iMB5; Exploitation of EA-CoP collaboration frameworks.

These high level themes will be reflected in the respective meeting reports.

Business Case original description (DOW)

BC1 - Support to EU Common Fishery Policy

As a member of FAO, the EU has adopted the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and one of its key instruments, the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries, has become one of the drivers of the European Common Fishery Policy (CFP). The implementation of this EU CFP requires a complex flow of fishery data and information from fishing industry activity, through member states, to supporting EC agencies. As overall picture, the statistics which result of fishery data work-flows are exploited together with other thematic information, in order to formulate scientific advice on the basis of the assessed biological state of resources and socio-economic performance of the fishing sector. In turn, DG-MARE uses this scientific advice to elaborate its management and policy advice. Recently, the overarching need to have more integrated and higher quality data including in coverage, timeliness, resolution and accuracy has been stressed by DG-MARE and a substantial revision of the entire information work-flow and supporting tools has been engaged since 2009. Concerned work streams and priority levels are

  • (i) Activities database: forwarding of daily fishing vessels activity data, including VMS, log books, landings;
  • (ii) Fleet registry – Fishing licenses database: work flows from member states to EU;
  • (iii) Legal data;
  • (iv) Scientific data for fixing quotas.

BC2 - Support to FAO’s deep seas fisheries programme: balancing use of marine resources and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas

In 2009, FAO established international guidelines for the management of deep seas high seas fisheries with the aim to protect deep sea fragile ecosystems. In support to the implementation of these guidelines, FAO has formulated a programme of action entitled balancing use of marine resources and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the high seas (DSF programme). One key component of this programme is the development of a VME Mapping Information System which will facilitate the registration, description, analysis and publications of all forms of information related to VMEs, in support to the management of High Seas Deep Seas Fisheries (DSF). In parallel, the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI), an international partnership advancing the scientific basis for conserving biological diversity in the deep seas and open oceans, was launched in late 2008 in support to CBD’s goals of identifying Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas (EBSAs) in the Deep Seas. GOBI’s work is supported by various sources of scientific data including OBIS and various other scattered information bases.

BC3 - Support to regional (Africa) LME pelagic EAF community

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) sets as principle that fishery management objectives should strive to reach an optimum balance between the fishery resource productivity, the biodiversity and habitat preservation, and the social and economic goals. The EAF implementation methodology addresses these principles at the level of a selected fishery and strives to ensure that the above mentioned values are given key focus in a management plan. As described by the EAF planning and implementation steps, the objectives for the fishery under consideration have to be specified and prioritized for each of these values, following which a set of multidisciplinary indicators and reference points can be defined. These indicators are monitored through various approaches including scientific assessments, catch or effort monitoring systems, rapid appraisal surveys with participatory methods. The scientific indicators build on spatially explicit models on the distribution of fisheries activity, the socio-economic structure of fishing communities, the concentration and abundance levels of commercially desirable fish stocks, the distribution of non-target species and vulnerable aquatic habitats. For an effective management response, such monitoring across disciplines and levels of data/information/knowledge elaboration requires a well organized (often institutionalized) workflow which orchestrates the inputs of the EA-CoP actors vertically (from the data manager, through the scientist and up to the fishery manager and policy maker) and horizontally (across concerned disciplines).


Progress towards Business case realization - as of March 2013

These business cases were initially described in November 2010 in the original iMarine project Description of Work (DoW) proposal. At the first iMarine Board Advisory Council meeting, an update has been presented (Document iMBAC_2012_1) taking into account knowledge inputs gathered in the meantime. Through the iMarine Board's mediation efforts, an iterative process of alignment between EA-policy needs and the data infrastructure services is expected.

The policy needs and the activities in support of BC realization were updated at the iMBAC2 in March 2013, and are described in document IMBAC_2.

A final update wrapping up the project results is expected by May 2014.

After the first iMarine Board meeting, the possible support of iMarine both in terms of "data infrastructure" and in terms of "initiative (as forum, partnership)" were revised/refined as follows:

BC1 - Support to EU Common Fishery policy

The activities in the first semester have resulted in an intensive yet informal collaboration between various EU-level related institutes and the iMarine project. Examples are the active participation to the iMarine Board of representatives of DG-Mare, EStat, and several Regional Fisheries Bodies where EU vessels are active.

The progress towards the objective of the first semester; identification of collaboration opportunities, can be evidenced by participation to meetings on Statistical standards (SDMX), and agreement for presentation of the iMarine project at the DG-MARE offices in Brussels before the end of June 2012.

The preliminary consultations (ie before DG-Mare's June meeting) in the EA-CoP for this BC resulted in a set of expectations for the e-Infrastructure.

The EA-CoP expects the e-Infrastructure to support:

  • managing classifications, code lists and vocabularies among different systems, ensuring mapping capacities and harmonization among these distributed sources
  • enabling streamlined (machine driven) transfer of VTI or e-Logbooks data taking care of confidentiality and security requirements
  • processing VTI or e-Logbooks raw data with aggregating capacities, and providing workspace to share with broader groups those aggregated / less sensitive data products
  • providing shared workspace with a suite of on-line visualization and analytical tools, with simultaneous and simplified access to other biodiversity and earth/oceans observations sources
  • enabling streamlined (machine driven) transfer of statistical data sets (SDMX)
  • facilitating the conversion among different formats, schema and codes


The iMarine initiative (as forum, partnership) should support:

  • by offering a forum for discussing protocols/formats/ harmonization approaches across stakeholders of the EA-CoP , towards agreed data sharing policies.
  • by offering a testing bed regarding the operationalization of the agreed standard formats and harmonized approaches for code lists, statistical, and electronic log-books information
  • by shaping, through iMarine.data.org, a profile of standard authoritative code lists and mapping among them

BC2 - Support to FAO’s deep seas fisheries programme: balancing use of marine resources and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas

The refinement of policy needs and the activities in support of BC2 are described in document IMBAC_2012_1 . After the first iMarine Board meeting, the possible support of iMarine to BC2 is revised/refined as follows:

The EA-CoP expects that the data infrastructure can support:

  • VME fact sheets generation with an on-line collaborative reporting/document editing workflow;
  • A (semantic) knowledge base to annotate fact sheets with controlled terms; necessary for summaries or automated maps generation;
  • A geographic data work-flow to generate point or polygon data, either through file upload, interactive drawing, or data transfer of geographic data
  • Aggregate sensitive/confidential high resolution geographic data in a secure VRE to less sensitive data that can be shared with broader groups and eventually published. These aggregating processes can also take place at source system level before data transfer;
  • Deep sea biodiversity analyses. The access to biodiversity data requires

i) query capacities across biodiversity data sourced by different systems (OBIS, GBIF, Ecoscope, ...), combined with ii) transfer from source systems (e.g. using Darwin Core standards) or iii) individual file upload facilities;

  • sources of environmental information are added as required through application of streamlined data transfer with other systems (e.g. UNEP-WCMC’s IMAP, EMODNET, OSPAR VME database, International Seabed Authority), or by using the iMarine individual file upload facilities for relevant data sources and maps (e.g. Seamounts on line, predictive map of coldwater coral distribution in the South Pacific).
  • Species modeling algorithms (Aquamaps, Open Modeler). These allow to assess the probability of presence of species on a given location;
  • mapping viewer can allow interactive selection of geographic data sources and visualization, and
  • Statistical services (e.g. “R”, or the iMarire statistical service). These enable to refine scientific evidence of key biodiversity criteria required for the identification of EBSAs-VMEs;

The EA-CoP expects the iMarine initiative (as forum, partnership) to support:

  • A collaborative scientific platform (VREs) which will trigger scientific collaboration among stakeholders involved in deep seas work and willing to share their spatially referenced information
  • The promoting and testing the operationalization of shared standards so to foster the exchange of information among existing systems, e.g. CCAMLR or OSPAR.
  • The enabling of tighter, information based VMEs and EBSAs collaboration

BC3 - Support to regional (Africa) LME pelagic EAF community

It should also be noted that the third business case has been altered to take into account the reduction of funding (minus 1 millions Euros) between the original project proposal and the budget finally agreed for iMarine, and actual partner project opportunities. Regarding the later, both the FAO Smartfish project (supporting development of fishery management plans in the Indian Ocean), and the FAO ABNJ*-Tuna project have been identified for collaboration with iMarine. Both these projects fit within the scope of BC3, and can benefit features developed for BC1 and BC2.

(*) Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions

The EA-CoP expects the data infrastructure to support:

  • The management of classifications, code lists and vocabularies, as well as mapping capacities among these distributed sources. iMarine can support the harmonization among Wiofish, Statbase, FIRMS and Fishcode-STF/Artfish;
  • The interactive delivery of ocean observation satellite products (SST, Salinity, Chlorophyl) to be integrated with biodiversity or fisheries data sources;
  • A scientific collaborative environment (VRE) dedicated to the sharing of by-catch species data and to their spatial analysis. This will enable the mapping of priority areas for these species and their overlap with Tuna fisheries. This would re-use tools already described under BC2; it would also apply VTI or e-logbook exchange mechanisms (BC1) for the transfer of on-board Observer data on by-catch species. The options need to be discussed and experimented with IRD (a iMarine partner) through its Observatoire Thonier Tropical (OTT) and ObsTuna data base.
  • An interactive Tuna Atlas VRE as scientific collaborative environment. This Tuna Atlas would re-use statistical data exchange, harmonization and processing capacities described under BC1 and deliver key fishery indicators as tabular, graphic or map services to the ABNJ portal;
  • An extension of the interactive Tuna Atlas VRE providing algorithms such as for reallocation of catch or effort statistics to variable geographic resolutions; such approach is already followed by IOTC in assessing national catch quota allocations.

The EA-CoP expects the iMarine initiative (as forum, partnership) to support it's functioning:

  • By offering to reuse the tools, services and facilities developed through the iMarine core partnership,
  • By offering a governance mechanism for developing data sharing policies and a framework for developing software of interest to the involved stakeholders

Progress towards Business case realization - as of March 2013

The iMarine Business cases provide the high level governance framework to iMarine developments: collaborations with the EA user community are envisaged and identified under the prism and scope of those business cases. The iMarine collaborations develop progressively through various stages, starting with a Mobilization/outreach phase and pursued further with negotiation including high level assessment of requirements, then implementation phases.

Among the collaborations identified under each BC, some are clearly of a medium term prospect, while others will actually be supported by one or more VREs during the project's time frame. For these, the concrete EA-CoP user community prospect is described. This process leads both to identify the market/business opportunities for medium term development, and to dimension the iMarine Business model and Governance structure in the short term.

The third iMarine Board meeting in March [1] the following conclusions were adopted

BC1 - Support to EU Common Fishery policy

  • FLUX - Fisheries operational data (DG MARE / MCS)

Board 1 (March 2012), iMarine presentation to DG MARE (June 2012) and Board 2 (Oct 2012) - DG MARE unit responsible for support systems to Monitoring-Control-Surveillance attended iMarine Board 1 and 2, and orientated the iMarine support towards collaboration in FLUX. Through Board activities, the principle of extending FLUX to also cover Formats for scientific data (such as Fishframe) was acknowledged; at Board 2, decision was made to proceed with prototyping a FishFrame database as a beta version for testing the support to FLUX implementation. There was strong Board consensus that the FLUX implementation would strongly benefit from code lists management facilities and transformation services among code lists and among formats. DG MARE also requested to assess a range of Geospatial services which the iMarine infrastructure can deliver to FLUX. The following initiatives (development threads and collaborations developed in the iMarine liaison page) are positioned in this context.

The Board3 meeting (March 2013) will envisage synergies between the Global Record (of fishing vessels), the FAO/VRMF, and FLUX. Towards assessing eligibility of FLUX as a global standard, outreach took place at CWP24 level (Feb.2013) in order to assess RFMO’s interest, and call for participation. Outreach also took place towards ABNJ-Tuna (Oct.2012) where certain objectives match the iMarine-Flux-VTI achievable prospects. Similar needs for a scientific exploitation of fisheries operational data were identified with BesTTuna project (Dec. 2012).

  • ABNJ-Tuna (FAO-GEF): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • BesTTuna project (Un. Wageningen): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]

Through the iMarine infrastructure technology developments, enhancements are on-going to manage and harmonize scientific data workflow, to scientifically exploit aggregated statistical time series and to produce indicators in support to policy making. The following initiatives here include SDMX registry and associated validation capacities, mapping and visualization capacity, generation of science based indicators supporting decision making.

  • TunaAtlas (IRD): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • SEIF2 (EUROSTAT): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • Data.fao.org (FAO / CIO): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • SDMX EXL (BoI): [ see collaboration] | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • Fisheries Chronicles (FAO): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • Fleets socio-economic performance (DG MARE / SocioEconomic Unit / FIRMS): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]
  • Indicators required in framework of EU common fishery policy (University of Rennes AgroCampus): see collaboration | [ see EA-CoP description] | [see technical description]

BC2 - Support to FAO’s deep seas fisheries programme: balancing use of marine resources and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas

This business opportunity mostly stems from collaborations oganized in the context of BC2 support to FAO’s High seas Deep Seas programme. Among the different data needs listed as part of FAO’s high seas deep seas program, are species identification, authorized vessels, status of fisheries and their management, footprint and historical fisheries information, and a data base on VMEs. On this later aspect, the VME database workshop (Rome, December 2011) more specifically identified issues and data needs. Reducing adverse impacts of fisheries on deep seas ecosystems and preserving biodiversity on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems requires proper management action taken on the basis of objective scientific evidence. However deep seas are far reaching areas very expensive to monitor, and data has been and will remain collected in very scattered ways. In order to compensate for this situation, a collegial effort is required to assemble all possible sources of information collected by scientists and the fishing industry. Seafloor geomorphic features (e.g. GOLD initiative), and habitats and species predictive modeling are also perceived as an approach which might compensate for lack of comprehensive data coverage.

This acknowledged, the iMarine project has initiated the development of advanced capacities in managing Darwin Core related data workflow, such as discovery, merging, taxon reconciliation, occurrence recognition. The handling of biodiversity data will be combined with that of advanced environmental geospatial capacities with the goal of enriching species occurence data with environmental parameters. These objectives concern the following initiatives:

  • VLIZ/WORMS, EoL, GBIF, IOC/OBIS - in respect of species and habitats prediction modeling, iMarine already provides access to a broad range of global marine taxonomic and biodiversity data such as WORMS, EoL, GBIF, and OBIS. see collaboration | [EA-CoP description] | [see technical aspects]
  • WoRRDS (InDEEP and VLIZ-WoRMS): the above mentioned capacity to access WoRMS data has been exploited to straightforwardly benefit from the InDEEP-WoRMS “World Register of Deep-Sea Species (WoRDDS)” collaboration which enables access to the deep seas species sub-set.
  • FishBase (FIN) is now fully integrated in the infrastructure and made available for other VREs. Deep-sea fishes are flagged bathydemersal or bathypelagic. It accounts for almost 3,500 spp. The distribution around a number of selected seamounts is available as a result of a past collaboration with CenSeam, the programme of Census of Marine Life about seamounts. FishBase participates to the "BioSynthesys project" funded by the EoL programme aiming at updating the list of world deep-sea fishes with a number of attributes/characteristics. [see collaboration] | [EA-CoP description] | [see technical aspects]
  • ESA, MyOcean, World Ocean Atlas, SeadataNet – iMarine also provides access to environmental remote or in-situ data sources such as ESA, MyOcean, SeadataNet. Such capacity is used by current iMarine partners (Fishbase Information Network, IOC/OBIS, IRD, VLIZ) to improve the quality of their data and enrich species occurrence data with closest estimates in space and time of environmental data. Being fully compliant with OGC geospatial standards, the access to additional sources (e.g. World Ocean Database, Ocean data portal) will be activated with minimum effort. [see collaboration] | [see EA-CoP description] | [see technical aspects]

Thanks to its capacity to integrate a broad range of analytical tools (currently: R and a powerful statistical manager for statistical analyses, Geoserver for GIS approaches and maps viewing, more than 20 ecological modeling algorithms from OpenModeller, and Aquamaps), data managers and scientists are granted access, through VREs, to a performing and great range of analytical, statistical, modeling and visualization tools. They can also run and/or contribute their own algorithms.

  • OpenModeller (CRIA) - ecological niche modelling (EU/FP7 EUBrazilOpenBIO project): see collaboration | [see EA-CoP description]

The species distribution maps generated through the infrastructure (e.g. Aquamaps), or accessed through interoperability protocols (FAO/FishFinder species maps) are made available to users through an iMarine harmonized catalog thanks to the implementaion of OGC standard protocols including agreed Metadata standards.

  • FishFinder Species distribution maps (FAO): [see collaboration] | [see EA-CoP description] | [see technical details]

Finally, the iMarine capabilities have been demonstrated to a large number of other initiatives, and /or interested individuals. Several of these have expressed an interest to become involved, and early negotiations have started to offer services for these initiatives, also with a view on future sustainability:

BC3 - Support to regional (Africa) LME pelagic EAF community

The objectives of BC3 as described in the original DoW have been affected by the reduced funding allocated to iMarine during the final negotiation phase. It was agreed that the project would not any more commit to deliver BC3, and that any development under BC3 would proceed upon co-funding opportunities. This basically meant for iMarine to give-up its primary objective to develop the EAF-dashboard and to adapt to the needs of the collaborating partner while offering facilities already available or being developed under BC1 or BC2. Under these conditions of dependency upon co-funding opportunities, what has remained of the BC3 as a framework for identification of collaborations is the thematic scope (tropical LME theme) and the semantic technologies.

Since the iMarine kick-off, the activities in the semantic web are driven by the collaboration between FAO/FLOD, IRD/Ecoscope and Forth. This collaboration operates in iMarine as the “semantic cluster”. It aims at the sustainable production and maintenance of Linked Open Data and related ontologies, annotation and search mechanisms, that support scientifically accurate linkage and mesh-up among distributed data sources. During the first half of the iMarine project, the anticipated benefits of LOD and related requirements have been test driven through three collaborations:

  • Dynamic tropical Tuna species fact sheets (IRD): [ see collaboration] | see EA-CoP description | [ see technical details]


The availability of a linked Open Data facility as envisaged by the iMarine semantic cluster opens great perspectives for information networks such as the Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS), the FAO VME database, or the FAO Aquaculture Best Practices. Such facility will allow to consistently connect the central infrastructure to the Partners’ published databases, web pages or reports provided a minimum set of conventions are respected: contribution to the central framework reduced to a minimum data requirements logic, partners publishing standards explicitly mapped through an ontology to the cen/tral framework, and versioning maintained. Such new participation paradigm should alleviate many existing obstacles and result in decupling the amount of information interconnected. These findings have provided the trigger for an intensification of the collaboration with AgInfra, and for the formulation of a new EU/FP7 project called Geodiva.


Other collaborations relating to tropical aquatic ecosystems have been identified in the course of 2012. From mid 2012, the delivery of a species fact sheets reporting tool has been negotiated with FAO/FishFinder programme aiming at serving the needs of a species identification project in South-America. At the end of 2012, iMarine has acknowledged the typical needs of i) a Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) project which supports the production of a comprehensive set of indicators on the State of the marine environment and ecosystems, and of the Medina project which has indicated potential interest in the access to environmental databases and environmental enrichment.

Progress towards Business case realization - as of March 2014

The March 2014 iMarine event in FAO will be a defining moment for the exploitation and future partnership model implementing the Business Cases.

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