Sunset. Photographer: Svanhildur Egilsdóttir, MFRI.

About the MEESO project

In the MEESO project researchers look—together with the industry—into whether organisms living deep in the oceans can be exploited in an ecologically and economically sustainable way.


Mesopelagic organisms live deep in the oceans from 200-1000 m depth and are the subject for research in the EU-H2020 research project MEESO.

The goal of the project is to fill in major knowledge gaps on these organisms and their role in and interactions with the full marine ecosystem and to evaluate whether they can be exploited in an ecologically and economically sustainable way.

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The background to MEESO is the global human population growth causing increased demand for food, including marine proteins and lipids. Mesopelagic organisms represent the largest unexploited resource left in the world's oceans, with a recent biomass estimate of around 10 billion metric tons –10 times larger than previous estimates. 

Our knowledge of the mesopelagic community in terms of biodiversity, the drivers of its biomass, its role in carbon sequestration, and its interactions with the epipelagic community, including commercial fish stocks, has major gaps. The main reason for these knowledge gaps is the lack of methods to observe and sample the relatively small organisms living at depths between 200 and 1000 m.


MEESO will determine the potential of sustainably exploiting the mesopelagic biomass for products included in the human food chain. It is important to assess the long-term sustainability of potential extensive exploitation at an early stage to develop appropriate management measures.

MEESO’s implementation of new acoustic and trawling research survey technologies will provide novel estimates of the abundance and spatial distribution of key species, and provide insight into the structure and functioning of this largely unknown part of the marine ecosystems. 

Development of new fishing and processing technologies and mapping of contaminant and nutrient content of key species will be used to explore the basis for a viable fishery. New tools for assessment of key species and fisheries management will be established to assess the long-term biological and economic sustainability of potential exploitation of the resources. The trade-offs between exploitation and changes in ecosystem service values such as biodiversity and carbon sequestration will be assessed, while identifying options for governance.

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Facts about MEESO


  • is a research project funded by the EU Horizon 2020-programme with 6,396,633 EUR.

  • is an acronym for "Ecologically and economically sustainable mesopelagic fisheries".

  • has 19 partners covering research and industry from 10 European countries.

  • is coordinated by Institute of Marine Research, Norway.

  • runs for 4½ years (2019-2024).


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 817669.

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19 MAY 2024