Project beneficiaries met in the historic city of Gent, Flanders, over the 24th to 26th March 2010, culminating in an exciting and inspiring launch of the Living North Sea project. Substantial progress was made on developing the project work packages ahead of this year's intensive sampling and survey programme, and beneficiaries were also able to see first hand, large numbers of glass eel obstructed in their migration from the sea to freshwater by tidal barriers. This species, now considered under serious threat, supports a fishery of considerable economic and social importance, and is subject to EU legislation to restore to health. The project launch took place during a boat journey up the River Averijevaart where attendees heard detail of the problems facing migratory fish, the project, and support from the European Commission representatives from DG Environment & DG Mare, and the Flemish Environment Ministry. The launch culminated in a visit to a pumping station where attendees witnessed first hand the result of fish trying to migrate through the pumps, with 100% mortality of many species, and serious damage to others. A representative of the Flemish Environment Ministry released glass eel collected by the beneficiary upstream of the pumps and pledged:
"Minister Schauvliege has mandated INBO to create an inventory of the existing pumping stations in Flanders and estimate their damage to the fish populations and the area of potential fish habitat that is cut off by these barriers. Based on these two variables, the priority for restoration of these pumping stations will be set and thus a guideline for their restoration will be available by the end of this year. Following the commitment we made between the partners of the BENELUX, the minister has engaged herself and the region, to resolve 90 % of the top priority fish migration obstacles (including a number of pumping stations) by 2015."
It is therefore with considerable pride that the Living North Sea project beneficiaries look forward to delivering a project of such significance, not only to themselves and their local communities, but to European community at large. The beneficiaries would like to extend their most heartfelt thanks to our colleagues at INBO for organising such an impressive launch.