The monitoring of sand and gravel extraction consists of two parts: the monitoring of the activity and the monitoring of the exploitation of the marine environment.
Monitoring of the activity
Every mining vessel operating in Belgium must have a register on board. In this register, the master of the mining vessel records all relevant information about each operation.
Since the end of the 90s, an automatic registration system or EMS (Electronic Monitoring System, also known as a "black box") has been used for an additional check. Commissioned by the Continental Shelf Service, The Measurement Service Ostend of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences carries out the management and inspection of these devices, as well as the processing of the registered data. In this way, it can be checked whether the conditions imposed in the concession decision are respected.
Unannounced inspections at sea or in ports are also possible.
On the basis of the registers and the EMS, the extractions are mapped.
Extraction areas: mined volumes in million m³ per sandbank (zone) based on the data from the registers.
Extraction areas: Detailed mapping of mining quantities (in m3 per ha) based on EMS data.
The extraction areas are depicted in black, the closed sub-areas in red and the Flemish Banks Habitat Directive Area in green.
Monitoring of the impact of mining on the marine environment
That research is carried out by three bodies:
- the Continental Shelf Service,
- the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) and
- the Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Models (MUMM – Department of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science (RBINS)).
The Continental Shelf Service uses a Kongsberg EM3002D multibeam echo sounder aboard the RV Belgica and a Kongsberg Maritime EM2040 multibeam sonar on board of the RV Simon Stevin to generate a detailed mapping of the seabed. These maps allow the impact of mining on the seabed's morphology to be evaluated. The multibeam echo sounder also allows the nature of seabed sediment to be determined. After measurements at sea, the data is subject to detailed study (corrections, controls and filtering) and modelling. After processing the bathymetric data which provides information about depth, it is possible to follow the evolution of the seabed precisely in the sand extraction zones. In this way, it is possible to evaluate the effects of mining.
In addition to the impact on the seabed, the biological impact of sand extraction on the marine environment is investigated in collaboration with ILVO. MUMM studies the ecosystem of the North Sea on the basis of mathematical models (mathematical formulas). If it turns out that a model corresponds to the obser