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A European Platform for the Communication of European RTD results to Stakeholders in Fisheries and Aquaculture

Final Report Summary - PROFET POLICY (A European Platform for the Communication of European RTD results to Stakeholders in Fisheries and Aquaculture)

The PROFET POLICY provided the opportunity to stakeholders interested in aquaculture and fisheries to be better informed on the European policies and research efforts relevant to their fields. The project included a combination of activities for the communication and dissemination of the results of EU funded research programs and focused on policy related issues.

The necessity for modernisation of fisheries and aquaculture production systems became evident as part of the sustainable management of European resources. Some of the fisheries exploited stock was in historical low levels; hence, it was crucial to thoroughly understand the effects of different management tools. Regarding aquaculture, some aspects of the production process generated concerns due to interactions with the environment. Quality and health parameters of the products were also of major importance, while environmental legislation, such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD) inevitably influenced the sector. Finally, social awareness over the acceptability of the methods employed in production was rapidly increasing.

PROFET POLICY had the twofold objective to increase the information levels of stakeholders and provide feedback to the European authorities regarding the required policies support. These targets were achieved via the creation of a specialised website, which included summaries of projects, background policy documents and references to the original documents and regulations. International workshops were also organised, providing an important forum for views exchange. The workshops highlighted, apart from the need to adapt the sector to sustainability requirements, the concern over the improvement of policy understanding, particularly in cases where legislation was affected. In addition, the importance of raising communication levels between the involved parts was pinpointed, in order to identify priorities related to sectoral requirements. Thus, the European Commission received recommendations for additional support actions to the applied policy.

A platform was built for communication, dissemination and presentation of the results, which achieved the following objectives:
1. hosted and summarised, in a simplified language, research results, focusing on policy aspects;
2. organised and realised thematic forums for views exchange as well as regional workshops;
3. improved the flow of information to stakeholders, who were thus informed on scientific progress;
4. identified research needs to support the applied policy within the selected sectors and served as a support to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

PROFET POLICY proved that few stakeholders were aware of the realities and the potential of European research, while most of them estimated that it should be assessed for the usefulness of its applications. On the other hand, most stakeholders were highly interested in being involved in research projects. The differences between research in aquaculture and fisheries, which reflect the structural differences of the two sectors, were also highlighted. Aquaculture sector estimated that research offered the potential to improve productivity allowing for business development. On the other hand, fisheries research focused on topics which could lead to control measures and was thus encountered as imposing limitations to the sector.

The preparation of technical leaflets (TLs) was of major importance for the project success. Attention was given to every TL component, such as the style of writing, the use of simplified English language since translations were not planned and the selection of TLs' content so as to achieve maximum impact. In addition, compilations of TLs and other information were prepared for the project thematic workshops, while all the material developed during the project was included in the PROFET POLICY website.

Regional workshops were organised, following the development of the required material. Even though the thematic content was flexible, in order to respond to regional needs and subjects of interest, a common format and structure was adopted in all cases. All workshops mobilised discussion related to regional development and the role of European research, research achievements in the fields of interest and their role towards sustainable development, future needs and actions to be taken. Additional documentation was prepared and circulated after the completion of each workshop.

It occurred, from the workshops' procedure, that most scientists were sufficiently aware of the legislation influencing their activities but quite unaware of the policy guiding it. Focus was given on filling this gap through the participation of European Commission representatives in the workshops. The presence of such officials along with representatives of industry and science mobilised discussion towards the potential for future projects responding to both market and scientific needs.

Moreover, the advantages of creating sectoral European technology platforms became evident during the various workshops. PROFET POLICY resulted in creating such a platform for aquaculture, while a similar project for fisheries was under discussion at the project completion.

Regarding knowledge dissemination, the key target audience was the professional and service sectors within European aquaculture and fisheries. The second target audience was the policy makers and public authorities, while scientists working in related areas also required information on project results. Finally, transparent public knowledge supply has been addressed. The main tool for delivering information to stakeholders was the project website. Given its importance and success, it was decided that it would be maintained and updated for five years after the project completion.