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European Marine Board co-hosts the "Ecopath 40 years" conference

The “Ecopath 40 years – The Ecosystem Continuum: From knowledge to decisions” conference and workshops were held from 3-8 June 2024 at the InnovOcean campus in Ostend. Co-hosted by the European Marine Board and the Flanders Marine Institute (Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee, VLIZ), this event celebrated four decades of the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) marine ecosystem modelling software, an increasingly important tool for marine management and policy making.

The Ecopath 40 years international conference brought together ecosystem modelers from around the world to showcase four decades of progress in using the modelling software 'Ecopath with Ecosim' (EwE). The conference was organized by the Ecopath International Initiative with the support from the European Marine Board, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), the EU EcoScope project, the University of Southern Mississippi and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA. According to NOAA EwE has "revolutionized scientists' ability worldwide to understand complex marine ecosystems", underscoring its relevance to marine management and policy making. The conference showcased the use of EwE in fields such as fisheries management, marine conservation, ecosystem dynamics, climate impacts, and ecosystem-based management (EBM). During five sessions, topics such as model validation and uncertainty, innovative uses of EwE, spatial modeling with Ecospace, impacts of climate change, and making Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) practical for policy were covered. The conference closed with two and a half days of training courses and workshops.

One of the workshops was a dedicated Science-Policy workshop on “Upscaling marine ecosystem models to implement EU plans and Directives”. In this workshop examples of Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) models from different EU funded projects were used to highlight how the software can and has been used to help policy makers, from the work done by JRC to get the models ready to improve the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD); to ways of keeping human activities compatible with both the MSFD and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP); by using spatial modelling to address climate change, the Nature Restoration Law and the Biodiversity strategy; and by highlighting how EwE models can enhance the Digital Twin of the Ocean through end-to-end modelling. The workshop ended with a discussion on what more do policy makers need, and how the models can be linked to the European Digital Twin Ocean (EDITO).

This conference also supported the aim of the EcoScope project, an EU-funded initiative aimed at promoting sustainable, ecosystem-based fisheries management. EcoScope is developing and implementing EwE models to assess and manage the impacts of fishing and environmental changes across European seas. The European Marine Board leads the work package on stakeholder engagement in this project.

For more information visit the Ecopath 40 Years and EcoScope websites. The recordings and presentations of the conference will soon be available on the Ecopath 40 Years website.

The conference was endorsed as a UN Ocean Decade activity.