The EMPOWER network

EMPOWER (European Management Programme for Oiled Wildlife and other marine wildlife Emergency Responses) is a network of organisations that have joined forces to improve the professionalism and capacity of responses to marine wildlife emergencies. The initiative was started in 2008 by the Sea Alarm Foundation, together with a core group of Founding Members. Since that time further funding for this project has been limited, however interest in improving oiled wildlife response remains strong and key group members continue to work toward the objectives of EMPOWER.

The Founding Members of the EMPOWER Network are:

  • Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF); Estonia
  • Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association (HELMEPA); Greece
  • Legambiente; Italy
  • Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ); the Netherlands
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA); UK
  • Sea Alarm Foundation; Belgium
  • Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre Lenie‘t Hart; the Netherlands
  • Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend; Belgium
  • Zoomarine; Portugal


The success of a wildlife response strongly depends on the training and skills of responders or volunteers and the quality of the organisations that direct and manage them. While oil spill response is a well-developed professional field, for which national experts are trained and in a continuous state of preparedness, oiled wildlife response is still in its infancy. EMPOWER is an NGO initiative which aims to develop European oiled wildlife response to a level that meet the international standards of professionalism similar to those that apply in oil spill response. This requires the national and international development of infrastructure, resources and training opportunities.  EMPOWER seeks to ensure that working relationships between NGOs and oil spill authorities are developed in all coastal European countries and are formalised as part of national oil spill response planning. EMPOWER provides support to its members in reaching out to authorities and sharing good practices.

Objectives and scope

EMPOWER develops and supports the implementation of policies and activities that promote professional preparedness to marine wildlife emergency responses in all European coastal countries. The objectives of EMPOWER are to: 

  • Help members facilitate initiatives and activities that lead to greater preparedness for marine wildlife emergencies, including oiled wildlife incidents
  • Connect organisations and experts across Europe
  • Provide training opportunities
  • Offer a sound basis for cooperation between governments, NGOs and industry
  • Keep members updated on the latest developments in the field of marine wildlife emergencies.

EMPOWER is a pan-European initiative, working in all European coastal countries. Membership in EMPOWER is not limited to the boundaries of EU Member States. Members are accepted from all countries of the European continent and from countries bordering one of the European Regional Seas. Within the framework of EMPOWER, European regional seas include the Arctic, North East Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.


EMPOWER was originally funded via Sea Alarm by a 2009 Operating Grant from the European Commission (under the Financial Instrument for the Environment LIFE+ programme). After 2010 this funding could not be continued to assist further the development of the network. However the EMPOWER concept is still very much relevant and important today as a means of developing tools and mechanisms allowing NGOs to develop their expertise together.

Sea Alarm will continue to explore means to progress the EMPOWER network in Europe. Organisations and individuals interested in enhancing EMPOWER are encouraged to contact Sea Alarm.