BR.20.003 – Preventing a lock-down of the North Sea. Socio-economic, judicial and ecological solutions for a sustainable North Sea in Transition.

Route: The blue route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

Cluster question: 012 How do the seas and oceans function, and what role will they play in the future?

To reach a sustainable North Sea, we will study its ecological functioning, possible changes due to the Energy & Food Transitions, socio-economic, judicial, ecological solutions to prevent potential crises from conflicting developments. The NL depends on the North Sea, our largest legally-protected ecosystem. Increased exploitation of North Sea resources should therefore only take place in balance with Nature conservation/restoration. Construction of more than 20.000 windturbines for electricity and hydrogen-production will change the ecological functioning due to changing currents, waves, stratification, sediment transport, biodiversity and biomass. Policy and politics are insufficiently prepared to deal with potential crises caused by disturbance of the balance in the North Sea, due to a lack of adequate knowledge and policy instruments. Crises can arise if internationally agreed objectives are not met, resulting in a lock-down of certain user functions (i.e. legal restrictions being imposed, as is currently the case for nitrogen-deposition). Undesirable developments can only be prevented if we create an adequate knowledge base on cause-and-effect relationships related to different ecological, societal and economic functions, and on effective judicial and policy tools. We intend to promote the good and mitigate the bad. To achieve this, we will increase the current understanding on the functioning of the North Sea through integrated field measurements and laboratory experiments on the carrying capacity of the North Sea, and on impacts of infrastructures for energy and food production. On basis of the results we will advise on appropriate monitoring schemes, and develop numerical modelling tools. Modelling will include various climate, fisheries and marine spatial-planning scenario studies. In conjunction, we will explore (inter)national frameworks to assess which legislative and governance tools can be effectively applied to achieve a sustainable future and safeguard marine resources for the coming decades.


aquaculture, carrying capacity, ecology, economics, energy transition, food transition, judicial balance., mitigation, nature, North Sea system, restoration, science-policy interface, society, sustainable, wind turbines

Other organisations

Deltares, Stichting de Noordzee .. and many other ..., Technische Universiteit Delft (TUD), Tilburg University (TiU), Utrecht University (UU), Wageningen Marine Research


Organisation Stichting NWO-I / Royal NIOZ
Name Prof. dr. H. (Henk) Brinkhuis