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EUROWA network holds April meeting

For the first time since 2019, the EUROWA network was able to meet in person. Seventeen network members and technical experts, with Sea Alarm in its role as Secretariat, gathered in Ostend from 24-28 April. This allowed the group to delve into extended face to face discussions on a wide range of technical issues to further the mission of the EUROWA network.

The meeting, hosted by the Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend, was highlighted by an evening tour of their facility, which was attended by several key Belgian authorities, including the Directorate-General for the Environment, Federal Public Service Health Food Chain Safety and Environment and the Flemish Institute of the Sea This also gave these authorities the chance to meet attending EUROWA experts and members.

Two formal sessions were held. These Governance Committee and the General Assembly sessions were used to review progress on the EUROWA Work Plan and discuss management and completion of network activities. The group also held a tabletop exercise, using a spill incident in Estonia, working through their Standard Operating Procedure to understand how the network would respond collectively, in conjunction with local authorities, NGOs and other stakeholders. This exercise benefited from having new member network member Eestimaa Looduse Fond (Estonian Fund for Nature/ELF) in attendance to provide key local knowledge, making the exercise more realistic.

Network members and technical experts shared details of their setup for oiled wildlife response, the challenges they are currently facing and exchanged ideas on how to overcome these challenges with each other in another session. Other technical sessions included one on the future development of the EUROWA training portfolio, and one on the network’s Work Plan for 2023 onward. Now that EUROWA is recognised formally by the European Regional Agreements and mentioned in their long-term strategic plans, discussions included ways for the network to deepen relationships with their national authorities and engage them in the need to devote more attention to preparedness for wildlife emergencies.

Another advantage of this in-person meeting was that members were given a demonstration showcasing the equipment stockpile stored by the Belgian authorities in Zandvoorde, Ostend. A small group later inspected the stockpile, checking each case for completeness and expired or no longer useable items, and adding some recently purchased items, as part of keeping the stockpile in readiness for European authorities.

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