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.


Tourism represents the third largest socioe-conomic activity in the European Union. It is a key sector for Europe and for the generation of employment in the EU1. Over 5% of the EU GDP is generated by the EU tourism industry offering employment to 5.2% of the total labour force (9.7 million). When calculated indirectly, EU’s GDP goes up to 10% and employment to 122%.

Europe is the number one tourist destination worldwide.1 Tourism is based mostly around coastal regions3 which offer beach-based tourism, nautical sports and other direct interactions with marine ecosystems and coastal environments. Even though several sustainable tourism initiatives are already taking place throughout Europe4, yachting and coastline tourism, whale watching, or cruise tourism are tourism typologies with clear negative impacts on marine ecosystems.

Non-indigenous species (NIS) and jellyfish outbreaks have shown to have an impact on tourism. Over the past three decades evidence has been found of small craft spreading aquatic non-indigenous species, mainly by attachment via hull fouling5. The overall impact of NIS on tourism is not properly documented and may only be estimated. The most important unwanted impact on tourism is probably caused by blue green algal blooms which change the aesthetic and recreational values of beaches and coastal zones. Some species in this group are also known to produce toxins which could affect humans. However, so far these algal blooms have not resulted in significant impacts on tourist bookings in Europe.

Evidence exists of non-indigenous species having (a) a negative impact on tourism (i.e. Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas and zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha as well as (b) a minor positive impact on tourism (i.e. Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis). The recurrent massive jellyfish outbreaks that have appeared along the shores of the Mediterranean have been amply documented as causing health hazards and costly damages to tourism. The following are some examples of the measures that have been taken: closing of beaches, forcing of seaside resorts to set up defences, increase of lifeguards and first aid staff, installation of boom and nets on beaches, plagued beaches and non-swimming recommendations.

VECTORS has shown tourism as an important pressure in the Baltic, Mediterranean and North Seas but also as an opportunity for the sustainability of certain economic sectors, for the reduction on environmental impacts, for educational values or for scientific platforms. The project has also identified and analysed key interactions between multiple uses and sectors.

VECTORS research focus:

  1. Valuation studies on tourism focused on how ecosystem services for recreation are affected by the different drivers and pressures considered in VECTORS and how changes in these ecosystem services can be valued.
  2. Stakeholders views on interactions between coastal tourism and other sectors (EU, Dogger Bank, Sardinia, Catalonia and Gulf of Gdansk).
  3. The relationship between tourism and climate change and off shore renewable energy (Dutch Wadden Sea and the Catalonian coast).
  4. The relationship between tourism and jellyfish outbreaks (Catalonian coast).
  5. The relationship between tourism and development of the number of birds, seals and Pacific oysters (invasive species; Wadden Sea).
  6. Jellyfish invasions in the Mediterranean Sea and impact of stinging jellyfish proliferations along the south Italian coast (human hazards, treatment and social costs).


Lead Author

Lola Rodriguez

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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.

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