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Frontpage News 2017 Diving into the sea of knowledge with 'SOPHIA'

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Collecting geographic data from the Portugese sea is part of the extensive project. Photographer: Oceana

Diving into the sea of knowledge with 'SOPHIA'

  • A great network of knowledge has emerged in Portugal, and the aim is to protect the country’s 4 million square kilometres of sea territory.

    Portugal’s marine areas account for 50 percent of EUs economic zone, and the ocean is a common denominator for both scientist, bureaucrats, tourist guides, lawyers, teachers and fishermen, to mention a few. All these professions have experience and knowledge of the sea, and they can learn a great deal from each other.

    This was the starting point for the initiators of the project 'SOPHIA'. Their mission has been to gather vast amount of knowledge, and spread it throughout the country.

    Poetry and facts

    “We wanted to communicate quite complex matters regarding the marine areas in a more modern and innovative way, so we created a common website for knowledge-sharing. People from all sectors have turned to our platform. Professionals and amateurs have shared, discussed and collected information from the material made available. We’ve got people talking about the ocean” says project promoter Sandra Moutinho.

    The project name ‘SOPHIA’ was chosen as a tribute to the great Portuguese poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen whose poems to a great extent were inspired by the sea. The intention of the project is more factual though, as it aims to promote solid facts and raise the knowledge of marine environment management among people working in the field.

    kartbildet Portugese sea territory is marked with yellow on this map of Europe. Photo Credit: Maria Knoph Vigsnaes/FMO

    Temperature and colour

    Sandra and her colleagues have arranged courses, workshops, debates and mass meetings within seven different subjects related to the marine environment, ranging from deep sea ecology, interpretation of the sea surface temperatures and ocean colour satellite images, to the law of the sea, and data collection for use in geographic information systems.

    These subjects have been taught and debated at different venues, and eventually shared on 'SOPHIA’s common website. The project is funded by the EEA Grants and is part of the Environmental protection and management programme.

    Today, the 5th of June, is the United Nations World Environment Day, with a theme that is well suited for the purpose of ‘Sophia’: ‘Connecting People to Nature’. According to UN the day “invites you to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it”.

    Half of EU

    The main purpose of the knowledge sharing was to protect the environment and to utilize the resources in the best possible way.

    Portugal’s marine areas account for 50 percent of EU's economic zone. We are depending on measuring and monitoring the area and need to increase our technical skills,”says José Manuel Marques, senior coordinator of the project.

    He says it’s essential that different professions work together, for the country to be able to implement and follow European Union's ambitious Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

    “The main objective was to show a new way of looking at the sea, and make marine knowledge accessible to more people. The outcome has been even mightier,” says José, who works for the Directorate of natural resources and maritime services in Portugal.

    imageedit_2_6600546751 "We’ve got people talking about the ocean" says senior coordinator José Manuel Marques and project promoter Sandra Moutinho. Photo credit: Maria Knoph Vigsnaes/FMO

    Opportunities for Blue Growth

    Norway and Portugal, are both facing the Atlantic. Both countries have long coastlines, and the area of the territorial waters is much greater than that of the land. That is also why two Norwegian institutes - NIVA (Norwegian Institute for Water Research) and NILU (Norwegian Institute for Air Research) - are among the entities that participates in the project.

    “Nature has offered us great opportunities for Blue Growth, but our long coastlines also comes with responsibilities with respect to monitoring these vast areas and complying with international agreements,” says Alice Newton, NILU’s representative in the project.

    NILU organized meetings, capacity building courses and training, and contributed with research results.

    “Both countries benefit from the exchange of knowledge and results, which can also lead to cost-effective solutions,” says Newton.

    Want to know more about Europe's sea? We support several programmes on integrated marine and inland water management.

    Mutual interest in the sea

    Sandra Moutinho has been wrapping up the first part of ‘SOPHIA’ this spring, but she hopes the project can live on.

    oceana1 Who lives in the deep sea? Continental shelf ecology is one of the subjects for 'Sophia'. Photo credit: Oceana

    “The feedback has been overwhelming, despite the challenge of gathering experts from different fields. I hope the project can be used as a pilot on quality standards in several countries, and promote constructive cooperation among other coastal countries that have a mutual interest in the sea," says Sandra.


    Here are a few of our other environmental projects:

    The Baltic Sea is one of the busiest waterways in the world, and pollution from ships poses a threat to the drinking water. EEA Grants support a strengthening of the region's marine and inland waterway management.

    How do you get students more interested in learning about climate change? Portuguese teachers are using video, pictures and social media.

  • Country:


    Project title:

    Sophia, Knowledge for Marine Environment Management

    Project number:


    Priority sector:

    Environmental Protection and Management


    € 222549



    Project promoter:

    Directorate General for Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services

    Type of Institution:

    Government ministry

    Project duration:

    28 months

    Project cost:

    € 276,819

    Grant from:

    EEA Grants

    DGRM is responsible for the implementation of Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and has identified several areas requiring consolidation of knowledge and qualified personnel for proper implementation of monitoring programs and measures. This project responds some of these needs, contributing to training and academic qualification in three areas: Deep Sea Ecology; Dynamics of food webs; GIS and satellite images of sea. The project is developed in partnership with FCUL (scientific and educational axis) and the ESCS (content production and web portal axis) and is structured in three areas: an international Workshop on deep sea ecology,seven thematic training modules and seven technical guidelines to support the training modules. It is intended that this project could be run twice during each cycle MSFD, updating existent knowledge and it can be included in the Program of Measures, strengthening of bilateral relations with Norway and with coastal states, will also be developed.