Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Policy and governance synthesis as a tool for stakeholders

The marine environment is subject to many activities and pressures, each of which may be regarded as a vector of change, and require management or at least accommodated in order to achieve objectives set by society. Sustainable solutions to those marine vectors require a set of adopted policy objectives and tools to ensure those objectives are met. The VECTORS policy synthesis document provides guidance in the achievement of governance solutions to ecological and economic issues identified by the wider VECTORS project and emphasises to marine managers from different sectors, the need for tackling synergistic and antagonistic influences between different marine uses and users. Feedback from marine stakeholders was considered throughout the duration of the project in order to produce policy recommendations on governance controls, assessment tools and policy scenario analysis for the key vectors of change associated with fisheries, marine energy and shipping.


Current marine legislation was mapped at the international, European and national level and was discussed with marine stakeholders. Workshops and semi-structured interviews were undertaken to investigate the role of stakeholders and policymakers in shaping future marine governance. This resulted in a list of VECTORS policy recommendations for governance controls.

VECTORS policy recommendations for governance controls:

  • VECTORS recommends that it would be valuable to undertake a similar legislation and administration mapping exercise for each EU Member State to enable comparisons between Member States and to identify gaps and communicate these to regulators.
  • VECTORS recommends that future governance should focus on activities which are not currently protected, for example sectors of the Blue Growth agenda (e.g. large scale offshore aquaculture, seabed mining, blue biotechnology) for which there is currently limited regulation and little is known about the ecosystems in which the activities take place.
  • VECTORS recommends that linking Marine Spatial Planning, Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Strategic Environmental Assessments is essential to integrate governance across sectors.
  • VECTORS further recommends that a harmonisation is required of the definition of the status assessments between the different directives (e.g. MSFD, WFD, Habitats Directive) in relation to activities, pressures and impacts and their management.
  • VECTORS recommends that sufficient resources be allocated to fully integrate stakeholders in the management process, and that stakeholder input is managed more efficiently to avoid stakeholder fatigue.
  • VECTORS follows stakeholder demands and recommends that a ‘one-stop-shop’ be established within each Member State from which all marine data can be accessed and which acts as a focal point for decision-making.

VECTORS research focussed on two particular types of tools which can be used by managers and stakeholders to achieve sustainable management of marine resources - modelling tools for management evaluations and methods of undertaking risk assessment of activities. This resulted in a list of VECTORS policy recommendations for assessment tools.

VECTORS policy recommendations for assessment tools:

  • VECTORS recommends that there is a need for the increased availability of highly spatially and temporally resolved information on human activities in the marine environment as this forms an important part of supporting decision making in marine spatial planning.
  • VECTORS also recommends that there is the need for integrated, ecosystem-level analysis of spatially and temporally resolved data, in a transparent manner that is sufficiently user-friendly to be understood by managers and policy makers.
  • VECTORS recommends that the breadth of present and future risks which may significantly affect human societies, e.g. shipping, marine litter, invasive species, ocean acidification, climate change, oil and gas developments, noise and the blue growth sector, needs the causes of change to be addressed in combination.
  • VECTORS recommends that a clear set of priorities needs to be identified regarding future marine hazards and risks which would allow the regulatory framework to be structured to meet these needs.
  • VECTORS recommends that the Bow Tie methodology is an appropriate methodology to assess risks in the marine environment but it requires further development to account for combined pressures and cumulative impact assessments.
  • VECTORS recommends that to ensure data reliability in the Ballast Water Management (BWM) risk assessment model, port baseline surveys and regular monitoring programmes should be undertaken during the exemption period as new species found influence the risk assessment.

VECTORS applied four contrasting future scenarios to test whether current marine policy actions are robust and sustainable. This research focussed on the demand for food, energy and transport, and explored policy repercussions to 2050. This resulted in a list of VECTORS policy recommendation for vectors of change.

VECTORS policy recommendations for vectors of change:

  • VECTORS recommends that scenarios analysis should be used to ‘test’ possible outcomes of policy decisions taken now and their future ramifications.
  • VECTORS recommends that given uncertainty in the future, all four scenarios should be applied but that a concerted attempt to also address the likely combined scenario will be needed.
Relevance for Policy:
  • Alien Invasive Species Directive
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy
  • Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships’ Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species
  • Habitats and Birds Directive
  • ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Convention
  • Integrated European Maritime Policy (IMP)
  • International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships
  • International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments
  • Marine and Coastal Access Act
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive
  • Water Framework Directive
Further information:

Deliverable 6.1: Understanding stakeholder and policymaker needs for successful marine environmental management

Deliverable 6.2: Database of alien species presence within and in the vicinity of representative EU ports

Deliverable 6.3: Review of ballast water discharge risk assessment tools and new decision support systems for EU ports to avoid aquatic species invasions

Deliverable 6.4: Risk assessment for fisheries management

Deliverable 6.5: Risk assessment for renewable energy exploitation

Deliverable 6.7: Online synthesis of VECTORS for stakeholders and policy makers

Deliverable 4.1.1: Synthesis report of the VECTORS findings that are relevant to the issues of the Western Mediterranean Regional Sea

Deliverable 4.2.1: Synthesis report of the VECTORS findings that are relevant to the issues of the North Sea Regional Sea

Deliverable 4.3.1: Synthesis report of the VECTORS findings that are relevant to the issues of the Baltic Sea Regional Sea

Factsheet: Changes in policy

Factsheet: Changes in policy

Factsheet: Marine stakeholder engagement

Factsheet: The Dogger Bank case study: a unique place owned by four countries

Boyes, S.J. & Elliott, M., 2015. The excessive complexity of national marine governance systems - has this decreased in England since the introduction of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009? Marine Policy, 51, pp. 57-65.

Boyes, S.J. & Elliott, M., 2014. Marine legislation – the ultimate ‘horrendogram’: International Law, European Directives & National Implementation. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 86, pp. 39-47.

Elliott, M., 2014. Integrated marine science and management: wading through the morass. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 86, pp. 1-4.

Elliott, M., Cutts, N.D. & Trono, A., 2014. A typology of marine and estuarine hazards and risks as vectors of change: A review for vulnerable coasts and their management. Ocean & Coastal Management, 93, pp. 88-99.

David, M., S. Gollasch, et al., 2013. Global ballast water management and the “same location” concept: a clear term or a clear issue? Ecological Applications, 23, pp. 331-338.

David, M., S. Gollasch, et al., 2013. Risk assessment for exemptions from ballast water management--the Baltic Sea case study. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 75, pp. 205-217.

David, M. & Gollasch, S. (Eds), forthcoming. Global maritime transport and ballast water management - issues and solutions. Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

Lead Author:

Daryl Burdon, Sue Boyes and Mike Elliott
University of Hull (UHULL)
Date of research: September 2014

Related articles:

Modelling fishing fleets competing for space

Population dynamics of sprat in the Baltic Sea 

Processes impacting overwintering larval survival 

Social economic impact assessment for the future 

Spatial control of spreading invasive species

Species richness, abundance in North Atlantic fish

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The content of this website may be subject to copyright, if you wish to use any of the information or figures please contact the attributed author(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.