A whole line of work (EBB work package 6, “Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) compliance for innovative uses of Marine Biological Resources“) is devoted to engage with end-users and learn about the practical implications of complying with ABS regulation and the major hurdles they face.
In this engagement process, EBB has provided direct, practical help to 30 individuals and projects, gathering valuable information from these hands-on use-cases. First of all, EBB has drawn the end-users’ attention to the existence of an ABS legal framework and the need to comply with it. EBB has also helped users to determine whether their research was in scope of the ABS regulations, and when needed, it has pointed them to the appropriate National Authorities so that they could request their permits. In some cases, EBB has even submitted the application for access permits on behalf of the researchers from foreign countries visiting EBB partner institutions funded by ASSEMBLE Plus transnational access programme.
Likewise, large scale projects like Scuba Cancers, using cockles to investigate clonally transmissible cancers in the marine environment, COCKLES, focused on restoring cockles production or EnhanceMicroAlgae, which aims to increase the competitiveness of microalgal-based industries in the Atlantic Area have been benefited of EBB support. These are international projects that have accessed genetic resources of many countries of origin, which means that ABS Competent National Authorities from different consulted. In addition to that, EBB partners have also raised awareness about ABS regulations and helped other users from their home institutions. Private companies using marine genetic resources were also guided through ABS framework. This has provided valuable insights on how research projects implementation can be impacted by the existence of legal frameworks which differ between countries, and the fact that certain bodies, such as ethics committees, can act as extra checkpoints on occasions.
In spite of the considerable bureaucratic burden involved in ABS framework, it is important to underline the efficient and diligent response of national focal points dealing with ABS permits with whom EBB has interacted. Online systems for requesting the access permits and doing due diligence declarations also contribute to alleviate the administrative burden.
Overall, it has been a unique opportunity to make a difference and capitalize the experience and know-how acquired through the project to help end-users of marine genetic resources.