The Institute for Marine Scientific Research (1970-1999) | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

The Institute for Marine Scientific Research (1970-1999)

The establishment of the non-profit organisation under Belgian law Institute for Marine Scientific Research (IZWO) on 21 October 1970 filled the gap left by the disappearance of ZWI for Belgian marine research. It was the then governor of West Flanders Pierre van Outryve d’Ydewalle who laid the foundations of this institute with the support of the Francqui Foundation and the National Fund for Scientific Research (NFWO/FNRS).

The non-profit organisation eventually started with 22 founding members and 13 directors belonging to the Flemish universities, the province of West Flanders and the private sector involved in marine activities. Management was entrusted to Dr Eng Edmonde Jaspers. IZWO’s main objective was to encourage, coordinate and publicise Belgian marine scientific research. This way, the institute laid the foundation of a multidisciplinary and inter-institutional approach to the study of the seas and oceans in Belgium.

For the first four years, the registered office of IZWO was in Zeepreventorium in De Haan, but in July 1975 the non-profit organisation moved to Prinses Elisabethlaan in Bredene. Offices were installed and a meeting space was provided on the top floor of this building. The important and valuable collection of the marine scientific library which IZWO had acquired from ZWI was located on the ground floor and over the years it was continually expanded with current literature. In July 1991 the institute finally moved to Victorialaan 3 in the eastern part of the port of Ostend. From its foundation, the institute also had modest laboratory facilities at the Ostend Sluice Dock.

An important milestone in the history of IZWO was the organisation of the ‘10th European Symposium on Marine Biology’.  This conference brought together over 400 scientists from 40 countries in the Ostend Casino-Kursaal and put IZWO on the global map in September 1975. As a sequel to this meeting, the international non-profit organisation European Mariculture Society (EMS) was established on 29 April 1976; its registered office and secretariat were located at IZWO. This organisation, later renamed the European Aquaculture Society (EAS), was founded to promote and facilitate the communication and dissemination of scientific information between all Europeans involved in aquaculture.

IZWO also played an important part in supporting the theoretical and practical education of university students and organising series of lectures on the marine environment, both inside and outside the institute. Every year the institute published the ‘IZWO Collected Reprints’. This series distributed the scientific publications of IZWO members involved in various marine research programmes to an international readership. Many marine scientists also held their first lectures at the annual IZWO open house days.

IZWO existed for over 25 years and during this period the institute performed an essential coordinating, logistical and didactic task, stimulated research, and provided services to marine researchers. In time, members of the institution began to request a marine institute that could act internationally as a fully fledged partner and an advocate of Flemish marine research as well as an interface between science, policy makers and the private sector. This request was eventually granted in 1999 through the establishment of the non-profit organisation under Belgian law Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), which took over both the staff and the responsibilities of IZWO in full.