In the search for new biological resources, a large unexploited biomass has been identified in the mesopelagic zone (water column between 200 and 1000 m). This largely unknown zone includes micro-organisms, copepods, krill and plankton feeding fish that are lower in the food chain, as well as squids and other higher trophic level fish.

This zone is known to play a significant role in the global carbon cycle, where the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide would be ~50% higher without its activities. If exploited at sustainable levels, without impacting upon biodiversity and compromising the oceans' role in climate regulation, this biomass could be used to produce more high quality ingredients (proteins with high nutritional value and polyunsaturated fatty acids) for human food chain (which includes farmed animals), to decrease the fishing pressure on overexploited species of higher trophic levels and potentially discover and to develop new bio-based products, including pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.

This requires a holistic assessment of this globally important marine ecosystem and an understanding of the mechanisms controlling its biomass and its significant role in the global carbon cycle through the reduction of atmospheric CO2. It also requires development of new monitoring and management tools able to weight the costs and benefits of the exploitation of these marine biological resources.


Activities shall provide data, information and knowledge on the potential role of mesopelagic micro- and macro-organisms for human food chain and other bio-based products and processes. While preserving biodiversity and enhancing resilience to climate change and mitigation. They shall address issues such as food safety (with regards to risks linked to emerging marine toxins), fisheries management, fishing techniques, processing (on-board and on-shore) and consumer acceptance and marketing. Impacts of fishing and climate change on the mesopelagic populations and the wider ecosystem, including biodiversity, natural food webs and greenhouse gas sequestration shall be assessed. They shall also address the potential of mesopelagic resources including micro-organisms for marine biotechnological applications. An ecosystem-based approach to exploitation for food and other bio-based products and processes, as well as cost-effective and environmentally sustainable resource management tools shall be developed. Inclusion of societal actors and stakeholders during the whole research and innovation process shall allow for better alignment of both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society. Activities undertaken as part of this interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial project shall build on previous knowledge produced in EU Framework Programme projects and contribute to creating jobs, reinforcing capacity building and improving the professional skills and competences of those working within relevant blue economy sectors. The interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial nature of the project shall also apply to training activities contributing to improving the professional skills and competencies supporting the creation of new jobs in the blue economy. Proposals shall fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach' and allow for adequate involvement of SMEs.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be adequately addressed. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

In line with the EU Blue Growth Strategy, the EU Common Fisheries Policy, the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the EU International Ocean Governance Communication, the EU Communication for a Sustainable European Future, the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Food 2030 process for food and nutrition security, activities shall:

In the short term:

  • Increase the knowledge of mesopelagic zone ecosystems.
  • Contribute to the UN SDG 14 targets to effectively regulate marine harvesting and to sustainably manage and protect marine ecosystems, including by strengthening their resilience, and to take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans by 2020; further strengthen the knowledge base to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015, COP22 and UN SDG 13.
  • Contribute to preserve the ecological functioning of the mesopelagic zone in line with the EU targets of halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2020 and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems.
  • Contribute to the preservation of processes regulating climate and to the mitigation of impacts of climate change.
  • Foster innovation for food and nutrition security and other bio-based value chains, biodiversity preservation and climate resilience.

In the medium term:

  • Contribute to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources (UN SDG 14).
  • Contribute to achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources, by 2030 (UN SDG 12) ensuring that fishing has no significant adverse impacts on species and ecosystems (EU Biodiversity Strategy).
  • Create management tools to ensure that nutritious seafood is available, accessible and affordable for all while conserving natural resources and contributing to climate change mitigation (UN SDG 2).
  • Contribute to improve the professional skills and competences of those working and being trained to work within the blue economy.
  • Contribute to the creation of jobs and growth in the fishing and processing sector as well as in the marine biotech sector particularly in coastal areas.
  • Contribute to policymaking in research, innovation and technology.


Dateline for submission: 11 September 2018 17:00:00 (Brussels time)

Source: The European Commission

Illustration Photo: Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba. The small front appendages are used for raking tiny bits of algae from ice. The green mass in the photo is the hepatopancreas, and bioluminescent (light-emitting) organs are visible at the base of the eyestalk and thorax. (credits: Dr. Wayne Trivelpiece / NOAA NMFS SWFSC Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) Program / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

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