Advancing Science for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

By SalM on March 4, 2021 in News Articles

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Ocean Decade) 2021–2030 is about to start. The Ocean Decade seeks to generate and use knowledge for transformative actions needed to achieve a healthy and resilient, safe and productive ocean. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to strengthen the international cooperation between all sectors and communities to conduct the science we need for the ocean we want.

The private sector, in particular the hydrographic industry, is invited to take on a leadership role to significantly contribute to reversing the trend and developing a robust and resilient Blue Economy that is needed for the prosperity of current and future generations.

What is the Ocean Decade?

Human health and well-being, including sustainable and equitable economic development, depend on the health and safety of the world’s ocean. The ocean provides food and supports the livelihoods of over three billion people. It is an essential ally in the fight against climate change. Emerging services, including renewable energy, marine genetic resources and deep-sea minerals, have the potential to generate significant benefits, but they also raise questions about risks to fragile ecosystems and equitable access to the benefits generated by the ocean. From an economic point of view, the ocean is of monumental importance. In 2010, the ocean economy generated over 30 million direct, full-time jobs, and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ocean’s economic output had been predicted to reach US$3 trillion by 2030.

The Ocean Decade aims to accelerate ocean science and knowledge sharing for sustainable development, foster innovative partnerships for transformative science-based actions to inform policies and solution delivery, and more broadly support a well-functioning, productive and resilient ocean. Ocean science is placed at the core of the Ocean Decade’s framework. It strives to harness, stimulate and coordinate research efforts of all stakeholders, at all levels to generate the information, action and solutions needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda. It will also focus on creating the enabling conditions to support active participation, including by connecting knowledge generators to the end users, and encouraging co-design and co-delivery of actions. It will look at developing the infrastructure, data, capacity and technology essential for supporting active participation and long-lasting and impactful solutions.

Data collection and data management underpin the Ocean Decade’s success

Data and information are key enablers of the Ocean Decade outcomes. Digitizing, accessing, managing and, most importantly, using ocean-related data, information and knowledge will be cornerstones of its success. The ambition is to significantly improve sharing of data and knowledge that can be used to drive ocean-based solutions. The focus will be on the collective design and construction of a distributed, multicomponent digital network capable of representing the entire ocean system, including its social and economic characteristics.

The Ocean Decade: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for the Ocean Industries

The recent pandemic has induced high impacts on the global economy, but it has also reinforced the role of the ocean to build a more sustainable post-Covid ‘new normal’. Ocean industries will continue to contribute massively to the global economy and will remain the primary commercial user of the ocean, with many businesses such as shipping, offshore oil and gas, fisheries, tourism, seabed mining, ports and renewable energy directly dependent upon their access to marine space and resources and the sustained production of those resources. Additional and emerging sectors, including deep and ultra-deepwater oil and gas, seabed mining, renewable energy, shipbuilding, hydrological and marine technology, seafood processors, maritime safety and surveillance and marine biotechnology, as well as other supporting businesses such as marine classification societies, insurers, financiers and lawyers, are also dependent on these ocean industries and provide services that enable successful ocean-based economic activities.

Achieving the Ocean Decade’s objectives calls for an interdisciplinary effort among all stakeholders, at all levels. Using collective resources to understand and monitor the rapidly changing ocean and much needed solutions will lay the groundwork for equitable and sustainable ocean economic development under a changing climate. Better ocean science can lead to numerous benefits for the private sector, including cost savings, operational efficiency, increased market shares, predictable and stable supply chains, enhanced relationships with stakeholders, improved access to markets and customers, and attracting new investments.

Hence, ocean industries are well-positioned to take on a leading role to develop and scale up actions in addition to pursuing emerging business opportunities. The private sector has the expertise, the experience, the presence, the capacity and the resources to lead the needed transformative changes for a sustainable future, becoming a corporate investment in both risk mitigation and growth.

By working together, science and industry have the potential to challenge the thinking for increased inter- and trans-disciplinary ocean science, from co-design to co-delivery, and to drive technological innovation leading to accelerated impacts on sustainable development. Science-industry collaboration will improve access to and usage of scientific knowledge, contribute to reducing business risks and creating new opportunities, stimulate the innovation ecosystem and accelerate technology transfer. In addition, under the right conditions these sorts of collaborations can also bear the risks and propose audacious solutions that governments may initially be less willing to engage in – by doing this they can pave the way, foster government buy-in and scale up investments.

Considering its critical role in supporting harbour and coastal management, hydrographic charting, coastal engineering, development of offshore activities and more, the industry supporting hydrographic surveys is well placed to play a significant part in the Ocean Decade. Among many examples, the industry could support innovation in data collection and sharing required to develop the digital ecosystems envisioned by the Ocean Decade. Engagement can range from participation in existing initiatives such as Seabed 2030, which aims to map the world’s seafloor by the year 2030, to leading the development of new ones to, for instance, facilitate the uptake of innovative hydrological technologies.

How Can You Participate?

The Ocean Decade will be implemented for and by a diverse range of ocean stakeholders, and their strong engagement will determine its success. It will propose a range of platforms and engagement mechanisms to catalyse new partnerships across sectors, disciplines and stakeholder groups.

Throughout the Decade, there will be regular Calls for Actions. An action could take various forms and range in scale, and will involve a diverse group of stakeholders where respective interests can be aligned in a collaborative and transformative process to deliver fit-for-purpose knowledge and solutions for a sustainable and healthy ocean. The first Call for Decade Action is currently open until 15 January 2021, with a focus on global programmes and large-scale contributions to the coordination function of the Decade. Most engagement mechanisms will be rolled out over the next 12 months and will provide a stakeholder ecosystem for science-driven innovation and development of ocean-based solutions.

You can commit to taking concrete actions, such as:

  • Partner to contribute, leverage and accelerate ongoing initiatives, such as Seabed 2030.
  • Initiate or participate in the co-design of a Decade Action in response to Calls for Decade Actions.
  • Become an Implementing Partner, and convene or attend international events (all details are available on»
  • Get information on the Ocean Decade Alliance, which will provide a highly visible platform to catalyse large-scale commitments to the Decade through networking, resource mobilization and influence. It will provide the mechanism and an appropriate platform to organize the Alliance members’ commitments and link resources to meet the priority needs of the Decade. Organizations interested in joining the Ocean Decade Alliance are invited to send an expression of interest to
  • Follow the latest news and events on the Decade and participate in dialogue through the Decade Stakeholder Forum.

Showing leadership by engaging in and committing to the Decade will increase the momentum needed to transform from the ocean we have to the ocean we want. Collectively, it is possible to build a sustainable future in partnership with the world’s business, policy and scientific leaders.

The Ocean Decade will deliver science-driven solutions to help existing and emerging businesses to reduce risks and to explore new opportunities for growth in a sustainable ocean economy. Enhancing businesses’ leadership in ocean science will lead to concrete addressable actions, including capacity building and technology transfer, financing, funding and the generation of information and data, as well as establishing invaluable networks of experts and business partners. The private sector has an unprecedented opportunity to join the world’s leaders in contributing to, and benefitting from, an effort to reverse the declines in the health and functioning of the ocean system. The hydrographic industry is at the forefront to contribute and innovate in response to the ocean data collection and sharing challenges.

Source: hydro-international

Will understanding the ocean lead to “the ocean we want”?

By SalM on March 3, 2021 in News Articles

Researchers from IRD, the CNRS and Memorial University of Newfoundland (Canada) have assessed the capacity of the principal ocean management tools to achieve the “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans’ sustainable development goal (SDG). They have shown that certain multi-sectoral mechanisms, such as marine protected areas, are the most effective in reconciling the ecological, economic and social dimensions of this SDG. These results were published in the journal Nature Sustainability on 14 December 2020, and will make it possible to improve operational guidelines for the preservation of the oceans.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), calling on States to act on the environmental, social and economic aspects of development. SDG 14, “Life below water,” aims for the conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources. Through 7 targets, this objective addresses multiple challenges: reducing marine pollution, restoring , reducing , allowing sustainable fisheries, conserving marine and , ending harmful fisheries subsidies, and increasing the economic benefits of the sustainable use of  for small island developing states and least developed countries.

To meet these challenges, decision-makers make use of spatial management tools that regulate uses in a given area. Some tools regulate the activities of a single sector, such as fishing or : this is the case of Gear Restricted Areas (GRAs), Fishing Closures (FCs), Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries (TURFs) and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs). Other tools are multi-sectoral, such as marine Fully Protected Areas (FPAs), Partially Protected Areas (PPAs) and Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs).

Assessing the level of confidence in the evidence

In this study, the researchers looked at the proven effectiveness of these management tools in achieving the targets of SDG 14, in its ecological (increasing the size and abundance of marine organisms and species diversity, ecosystem resilience, etc.), and economic and social (equitable access to resources, improved income, maintenance of traditions and customs, etc.) dimensions.

To do this, they analyzed the , favoring articles that provided an overview of previous studies (177 articles), and conducted surveys among 75 international experts specialized in the oceans. Following a similar approach to that of the expert group of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the researchers determined the ‘level of confidence’ in the tools’ capacity to produce certain results. They then developed a scoring system that linked spatial management tools to the targets of SDG 14, based on the relative contributions of results to the targets.

Five of the seven targets of SDG 14 are achievable

Using this methodology, the authors first found that the spatialised management tools they had evaluated had the potential to contribute to five of the seven targets of SDG 14: restoration of marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries, conservation of maritime and coastal areas, reduction of harmful subsidies and increasing the income of small island developing states.

“Our results confirm the inability of the tools evaluated to effectively reduce marine pollution and the impacts of ocean acidification,” says Rodolphe Devillers, a Geographer at IRD who coordinated the study. “Solutions for these aspects will require a reduction in pollution from the earth and a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” adds Joachim Claudet, an ecologist at the CNRS and co-author of the study.

The scientists’ second finding is that some single-sector tools, such as GRAs and Fishing Closures (FCs), are useful in the sector they regulate, but not very effective for the other targets of SDG 14. On the other hand, multi-sectoral tools—such as Fully (FPA) and Partially Protected Areas (PPA), as well as Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA)—are more likely to facilitate the achievement of a wide range of targets because of their proven ecological and socio-economic benefits.

For Rodolphe Devillers, “our results constitute a scientific contribution to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which begins in 2021. They highlight the complexity of the problem and the need to change our management approaches to achieve all the targets of SDG 14.”

Furthermore, “holistic approaches to planning and management of the land-sea interface, such as integrated coastal zone management, are likely to be important for integrating land-based regulations in spatial management tools in order to achieve SDGs,” stresses Joachim Claudet.

Finally, the authors of the study point out that to attain their full potential, these tools must be designed with local needs in mind, be well managed and their regulations well enforced.


Technology Can Improve Safety and Security for Observers on Fishing Vessels

By SalM on February 26, 2021 in News Articles

The eastern Pacific Ocean is home to valuable tuna fisheries worth more than $5 billion each year.  These stocks are managed by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), which is responsible for ensuring the sustainable management of tunas and other marine species, as well as enforcing rules to end and prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Transshipment is a key part of the seafood supply chain in which catch is transferred from a fishing vessel to a carrier vessel that then takes it to port, but management of transshipment is rife with loopholes, and IUU-caught fish can easily slip through the cracks.

For years, onboard fisheries observers have been the primary source of independent information on at-sea activity, collecting data on catch, transshipment, and more, and reporting rules violations and potential IUU activity to domestic authorities and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) such as IATTC. But serving as an onboard observer is a risky job, and the casualty rate on fishing vessels is notoriously high. Observers can be at sea for months at a time, often without quick access to medical care or assistance if they are in a threatening situation.

Last year, MRAG Americas, a fisheries-focused consultancy, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Walmart Foundation, deployed a new model of two-way satellite communications devices to several IATTC transshipment observers to improve real-time exchanges of information and, hopefully, help observers feel more secure onboard vessels.

Although observers have had communications devices for years, the new models feature several upgrades, including better satellite connectivity, an integrated app for more efficient messaging, a more durable design, and—significantly—an SOS button with access to a 24-hour emergency line. These devices are lifelines, enabling observers to communicate with RFMO staff, family, and friends, and call for help when needed.

One observer noted that the improved connectivity allowed him to communicate more discreetly, which could reduce conflict with crew when, for example, the observer is reporting a violation. “With the new [device], I could simply point it out of my stateroom window and get connected,” that observer told MRAG Americas. With the older devices, observers often had to go outside to the deck of a vessel to reach a satellite, which could draw unwanted attention from crew. Another observer said that the improved SOS feature and connectivity “gave me peace of mind … in the event of an emergency.”

With so much required of onboard observers, and the safety and security threats they face at sea, it is critical that they have up-to-date technology and assurances that their concerns will be quickly addressed. Without these individuals, RFMOs and other oversight bodies would know much less about vessel activities or stock health. By providing simple tools to improve their work, fisheries managers and port and flag State authorities can ensure that observers are well-equipped to stay safe and send valuable information back to shore.


The Global Push to Share Ocean Data

By SalM on February 25, 2021 in News Articles

It’s often said that we know more about deep space than the deep sea. Marine scientists are working to change that. In recent years, technologies to sense, interpret and model the ocean have become more powerful, widespread and cheaper to install and use. Smart buoys bristling with sensors bob in the water and gather data on temperature, salinity, light and noise. Sensitive listening devices towed behind ships scan surrounding waters for life. And samples from good old-fashioned buckets and bottles thrown over the side of research vessels still play an important role in examining water.

As a result of all this activity, marine scientists are swimming in data. Much of it is collected by national oceanographic services or research groups scattered across the world. The quality of this data varies, and so do the ways it is gathered, stored, organised and formatted. All of which presents a problem. Given the ocean is a shared resource, and one that is growing in importance for a number of environmental, social and economic reasons, it would be better if all of these overlapping, conflicting and incompatible data streams could be organised – or at the very least, better coordinated and made more accessible.

UK efforts to improve data exchange

“In the past, the gathering of marine data was quite territorial, with people collecting data within different sectors and sometimes being quite possessive,” says Clare Postlethwaite, an oceanographer who coordinates the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) in the UK. “Now there’s a big push to get data into a single place for users to find.”

This concerted push is establishing open data platforms such as MEDIN that allow many different types of user – from academics to private enterprises – to share and make use of data, helping to deliver insights quickly, avoid unnecessary research effort, and improve research quality.

MEDIN, for example, brings together organisations such as marine conservation groups, renewable energy companies and government agencies. It issues guidelines and standards on how those who generate data – on everything from seabed surveys and wave height records to the status of wildlife populations – should submit them to a series of accredited databases so they can be re-used by others. Some of these standards refer to metadata – how, where and when the information was collected, for example. Others aim to smooth the way for interested parties to access the findings. “I think that for data to be classed as available online it should be able to be retrieved after just a couple of web-clicks. Otherwise the process can get very frustrating,” Postlethwaite says.

Progress in the EU

There are many other open data platforms, some arranged by individual scientific field (such as bathymetry, which maps the shape of the seabed) and others by geographic area.

One of the most established such regional platforms is the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet). A key plank of the EU’s Marine Knowledge 2020 strategy, it brings together some 120 organisations from across Europe and collates, organises and shares data on seven marine themes, including geology, seabed habitats and human activities. For each, the network offers an online gateway to a range of data archives managed by local, national, regional and international organisations. Through these gateways, users have free access to standardised observations, data quality indicators and processed data products, such as maps of ocean basins.

Speaking during a webinar to celebrate EMODnet’s tenth anniversary last month, Koen Verbruggen, director of Geological Survey Ireland, said: “Before EMODnet it was very much a case of separate projects, separate silos, separate standards… there were lots of projects but not a lot of joined-up thinking.”

Verbruggen and his colleagues would carry out seabed surveys and log the results in a database from which users could download geological and bathymetric data. “But probably the easiest way to get at our data was, believe it or not, through the US, through NOAA’s National Geoscience Data Centre. So it wasn’t really ideal from the European point of view.” Becoming a member of the network helped offer direction, he said. “We had to produce joined-up data.” For smaller organisations, he added that the network offered the first chance to publish their data online in a shareable format.

One of the project’s goals is to tap these various data sources to produce useful products that marine companies and others can use in their work. By reducing costs and promoting the development of industries such as aquaculture, renewable energy and marine tourism, officials say the project will help to underpin Europe’s sustainable use of ocean resources – the so-called Blue Economy.

For example, the project produces monthly “vessel density” maps of European maritime activity, which show the most heavily used routes. According to project organisers, these maps will help scientists who want to monitor shipping emissions, engineers identifying the best routes to lay pipelines and cables, conservationists assessing the impact of fishing on the seafloor and companies planning offshore wind farms.

“With increasing economic activities at sea, not least the large expansion of offshore wind energy, marine space is not only at a premium, but also under growing pressure,” says Felix Leinemann, head of the European Commission’s unit in charge of maritime spatial planning. “When making maritime spatial plans to manage these new activities, planners need to know where and when other activity takes place. The availability and interoperability of these new [vessel density] maps can be an important contribution towards developing these plans.”

Collaborating with China

The project reaches beyond Europe, too. Earlier this year, EMODnet started a collaboration with China’s National Marine Data and Information Service (NMDIS) that aims to develop the use of standards and improve global access to China’s marine data.

Among its scientific goals are plans to look at – and to try to improve – the contrasting results of European and Chinese numerical models of ocean currents and coastal vulnerability. There is also a positive political angle to the partnership, with the EU announcing it would “enhance cooperation in key areas of ocean governance” and “facilitate political convergence towards a collective approach to tackling global ocean challenges”.

Europe hopes the data collaboration project will build trust and establish strong working relationships as part of the EU-China Ocean Partnership signed in 2018. Among its goals are greater transparency on fisheries data.

The project has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but at a meeting in September last year Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said:

“We should use our joint influence to take the lead globally and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. We want our partnership with China to go beyond words and deliver tangible results.”

Source: Maritime Executive

Leopoldina advocates free access to gene databases for researchers

By SalM on February 24, 2021 in News Articles

Genetic information can be rapidly decoded using high-throughput methods and made available in openly accessible Digital Sequence Information (DSI) databases. This genetic information is used for comparative analyses and is indispensable for life sciences research. Examples include the research on biodiversity and antibiotics. In the course of implementing the Nagoya Protocol, there is currently a discussion about equitable international sharing of economic benefits arising from such data use. Access restrictions or payment of fees are being discussed. In its ad hoc statement “Maintaining open access to Digital Sequence Information – Multilateral Benefit Sharing and Open Science” published today, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina points out that restrictions would have a seriously detrimental effect on research as well as biodiversity conservation.

To enable free research worldwide, DSI databases must continue to be openly accessible, states the Leopoldina in its ad hoc statement. The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly shown that the exchange of sequence information, in this case of novel pathogens, contributes significantly to scientific progress. In addition, DSI databases are a key tool for biodiversity conservation because, for example, changes in ecosystems can be tracked with their assistance. “The value of digital sequence information arises mainly from the ability to compare various data with each other. Restricting access is contrary to species conservation goals and the principle of Open Science,” says Leopoldina member and co-author of the ad hoc statement Prof. Dr. Rudolf Amann of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen (Germany). Access restrictions to sequence databases would also have far-reaching negative consequences for natural and active substance research, for example, antibiotic development.

The experts are in favor of equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological diversity. They emphasize that access to sequence information for research should not be restricted by fees or that research funds should not be used for monetary benefit sharing. The situation is also complicated by the fact that, to date, information on the geographical origin of the data is missing for almost half of all Digital Sequence Information. The scientific community should therefore develop solutions to make this information traceable in the databases in the future. The specific design of an international benefit-sharing scheme under the Nagoya Protocol must be done in a way that does not jeopardize either biodiversity conservation or Open Science, according to the authors of the ad hoc statement.

About the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

As the German National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina provides independent science-based policy advice on matters relevant to society. To this end, the Academy develops interdisciplinary statements based on scientific findings. In these publications, options for action are outlined; making decisions, however, is the responsibility of democratically legitimized politicians. The experts who prepare the statements work in a voluntary and unbiased manner. The Leopoldina represents the German scientific community in the international academy dialogue. This includes advising the annual summits of Heads of State and Government of the G7 and G20 countries. With 1,600 members from more than 30 countries, the Leopoldina combines expertise from almost all research areas. Founded in 1652, it was appointed the National Academy of Sciences of Germany in 2008. The Leopoldina is committed to the common good.


Noise pollution is harming sea life, needs to be prioritised, scientists say

By SalM on February 22, 2021 in News Articles

Far beneath the ocean surface, a cacophony of industrial noise is disrupting marine animals’ ability to mate, feed and even evade predators, scientists warn.

With rumbling ships, hammering oil drills and booming seismic survey blasts, humans have drastically altered the underwater soundscape – in some cases deafening or disorienting whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that rely on sound to navigate, researchers report in a metastudy published online on Thursday (Feb 4) and in the Friday edition of the journal Science that examines more than 500 research papers.

Even the cracking of glaciers calving into polar oceans and the rattle of rain falling on the water’s surface can be heard deep under the sea, said lead author Carlos Duarte, a marine scientist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s a chronic problem that certainly weakens the animals all the way from individuals to populations,” Duarte said in an interview.

“This is a growing problem, one that is global in scope.”

These noises and their impacts need more attention from scientists and policymakers, particularly the effects on sea turtles and other reptiles, seabirds, seals, walruses and plant-eating mammals such as manatees, the study says.

The international team of researchers called for a global regulatory framework for measuring and managing ocean noise.

Much of the human-caused noise should be easy to reduce, Duarte said. For example, measures such as building quieter ship propellers and hulls and using drilling techniques that do not cause bubbles and water vibrations could cut noise pollution in half, he said. Having the world use more renewable energy would lessen the need to drill for oil and gas.

The benefits to marine life could be dramatic, he said, noting a resurgence in marine activity during April 2020 when shipping noise, typically loudest near coastlines, died down as countries went into lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But humans have not only added noise to the ocean, they have also eliminated natural sounds, the study found.

Whaling in the 1900s, for example, removed millions of whales from the world’s oceans – along with much of their whale song. And the chirp and chatter around coral reefs is growing quieter as more corals die from ocean warming, acidification and pollutio

Climate change has also changed the soundscape in parts of the ocean that are warming by altering the mix of animals living there, along with the noises they make.

Oceanographer Kate Stafford at the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory praised the timing of the metastudy, as the United Nations calls on governments to set aside 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea areas for conservation.

“The review makes it clear that, to actually reduce anthrophony (human noise) and aim for a well-managed future… we will need global cooperation among governments,” Stafford said.

IMO and WISTA launch Women in Maritime Survey

By SalM on February 19, 2021 in News Articles

To examine the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector, from support roles to executive level positions, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA International) have launched an inaugural Women in Maritime – IMO and WISTA International Survey 2021.

The survey is part of a series of activities aimed at laying the groundwork for further discussions on how to build a more diverse workforce in the maritime sector. The data obtained by the survey will help build a picture of diversity and gender equality in the industry.

The study launch follows the 2020 signing of an IMO-WISTA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that MoU aims to set a framework for both IMO and WISTA to promote gender diversity and inclusion as vital factors in providing a sustainable future for the shipping industry worldwide.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “Diversity in maritime matters. Empowering women fuels thriving economies across the world, spurs growth and development, and benefits everyone working in the global maritime community and beyond. We need solid data on female participation, as this will enable us to track and quantify our ambitions in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector. I am pleased to invite all Member States and maritime stakeholders to take part in this important survey.”

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, president at WISTA International said: “Having comparable data is a key component when creating programs and proposing policies that will increase the participation of women in maritime. It is an essential step forward in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment in our sector. With our global reach we can amplify the strength of this survey to show real results and back our drive towards an inclusive maritime sector.”

Other initiatives under the IMO-WISTA MoU include developing a database of female experts in a wide range of maritime subjects who are available for speaking engagements. This will contribute towards more diverse panels.

Another key objective of the MoU is to strengthen cooperation and share best practices between the IMO-established regional Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) and WISTA International’s National WISTA Associations (NWAs).

In 2019, the IMO Assembly adopted Resolution A.1147(31) on Preserving the legacy of the World Maritime theme for 2019 and Achieving a Barrier-Free Working Environment for Women in the Maritime Sector (link) which urges firm action in coming years to advance gender equality throughout the maritime sector and help create an enabling work environment that embraces equality, diversity and reduces bias. The resolution was adopted following a year of action to promote diversity under the World Maritime theme, “Empowering women in the maritime community.”


The IMO and WISTA International survey is open to IMO Member States, IGOs, NGOs, public and private companies in the maritime sector and maritime training establishments. There are two separate surveys to be completed by Member States and industry.

To access the survey click here

Developing research in maritime regions through innovation ecosystems

By SalM on February 17, 2021 in News Articles

The EMBRC-ERIC (European Marine Biological Resource Centre) explores the need to develop research activities by focusing on innovation ecosystems

As research develops with augmented knowledge and understandings, scientists are becoming increasingly specialised and the need for interconnectivity between a variety of diverse disciplines, such as biology, ecology, and structural and analytical chemistry, is more crucial than ever before. Communication and collaboration between scientific specialisations and companies at the regional level is essential to harness the industrial and innovation potential of Europe’s maritime regions.

To support the alliances that lead to discoveries and positive impacts on our environments and ourselves, research facilities, such as European Research Infrastructures (RI), have been developed. RIs are sector specific; they provide the resources and services necessary to support and advance research and foster innovation in their given field. The European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC-ERIC) is a distributed research infrastructure that supports research in the fields of marine biology and ecology. With a network of renowned marine biological stations and institutes across Europe, EMBRC is able to provide access to marine organisms, marine ecosystems, and the facilities necessary to study them.

Marine biological resources have become major targets for the biotechnology sector, with application in fields such as aquaculture, production of food, nutraceutics, pharmaceutics and cosmetics, agronomy, and environmental health assessment. Each marine station that makes up the EMBRC consortium has connections to its region and government at local level. Biotechnology is a growing sector in many peripheral maritime regions, composed mainly of start-ups, small and medium enterprises, and only a few larger companies. This sector is thus of growing importance economically, while also being a source of high-value jobs in regions that traditionally have been less developed from a technological perspective.

The resources that EMBRC brings to its users have the potential to enrich both industry and the regions where EMBRC facilities are located. To build up the socioeconomic potential of the maritime regions of Europe, EMBRC emphasises marine biodiversity as an important resource for industrial applications in the health, food, energy and environment remediation sectors. Companies recognise the potential of blue technologies and bio-economy, though they may lack the tools and resources for the research that needs to be developed in the marine field. EMBRC pools resources and skills, offering access to expertise, facilities, and equipment that many SMEs cannot afford, enabling them to innovate and bring new products to market. Furthermore, as a platform for public and private collaboration, companies receive access to research activities best performed by academia which complement private-sector research, accelerating the development of the blue bioeconomy.

In order to enable the regional innovation ecosystems, EMBRC is working to link researchers, companies, science parks, and company incubators around its platforms and facilities. These maritime regions which boast RIs and stimulate their use through local grants are thus beginning to act as catalysts to attract companies and investment. Such activity enables research that was not previously possible and results in higher visibility for the regions. The onsite expertise and resources offered by EMBRC are important for solving problematic bottlenecks and help develop the economy of the regions themselves. Integrating the RI at the local level increases the socio-economic impact of the RI by becoming a cornerstone of local economies.

Enabling local innovation ecosystems leads to the reduction of gaps in research that exist today. Maritime regions are given a boost in their activities and, in return, provide resources to companies and research infrastructure, which in turn, increases the local innovation potential. Furthermore, the international nature of the RIs gives the potential for the mobility of knowledge across disciplines. The transfer of technology developed in the region not only has the capability to increase but also has the potential to spread across multiple regions and countries, creating new synergies, co-operations, and markets, giving the regions potentially global reach.

Open access web app enables the detection of floating marine litter

By SalM on February 16, 2021 in News Articles

Floating marine plastic is a serious threat to the conservation of marine ecosystems. For instance, marine plastics can cause damage to marine animals through ingestion, suffocation, restraint and injury. Floating litter is found mostly in the great gyres – streams of circular currents which spin and capture litter – but also in coastal waters, waterways and semi-closed seas.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona have developed an open-access web app – ‘MARLIT’ – which enables the detection and quantification of floating plastic with a reliability of 80 per cent. The app is based on an algorithm designed using deep learning techniques.

Historically, direct observations from boats or planes have been the basis for assessing the impact of floating marine litter. However, the sheer great ocean area makes it challenging for researchers to advance with monitoring studies.

“Automatic aerial photography techniques combined with analytical algorithms are more efficient protocols for the control and study of this kind of pollutant,” said Odei Garcia-Garin, PhD candidate and first author of the Environmental Pollution study. “However, automated remote sensing of these materials is at an early stage.

“There are several factors in the ocean [waves, wind, and clouds] that harden the detection of floating litter automatically with the aerial images of the marine surface. This is why there are only a few studies that made the effort to work on algorithms to apply to this new research context.”

The researchers designed a new algorithm to automate the quantification of floating plastic from aerial photography, using deep learning techniques and more than 38,000 aerial images of the Mediterranean coast in Catalonia. Deep learning is an approach to marine learning often used in computer vision applications.

The algorithm was tested using images of the marine surface collected by drones and planes and reached 80 per cent accuracy.

The algorithm has been incorporated into MARLIT, an open-access web app. MARLIT enables the analysis of individual images, as well as analysis of segments of images, identifying the presence of floating litter and estimating their density using image metadata. In future, it could be incorporated into a remote sensor such as a drone to fully automate the process.

Earlier this month, a research report demonstrated that underwater seagrass meadows may trap, extract and carry marine plastic debris to shore, thereby helping to remove plastic litter from the sea.


Marine Institute Celebrates Women in Science

By SalM on February 15, 2021 in News Articles

The Marine Institute is celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2021, by highlighting the many brilliant women who play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing the wealth of our oceans.

“The Marine Institute recognises our people as a critical enabler of success, and we are committed to supporting a diverse workforce and a culture of high performance driven by our people. Just as the ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems, the Marine Institute values our diverse workforce,” said Patricia Orme, Director of Corporate Services at the Marine Institute.

The Marine Institute has a staff of 234 employees and supports a strong workforce of female employees at 51%. The organisation continues to recognise that its employees’ skills, experience, diversity and passion for the marine are central to the work that is undertaken for the government and other partners.

“Almost 70% of the women working at the Marine Institute work in roles that deliver key services centred around science, technical analysis and research including areas of oceanography & ocean climate, fisheries ecosystems and advisory roles, marine environment and food safety and the development of applications. We also have women working in policy, innovation and research, maritime development and corporate roles. We are extremely proud to note that 80% of our female employees hold bachelor, masters or doctorate level qualifications,” Patricia Orme added.

From the 8th – 12th February 2021, the Marine Institute will share photos, animations and profiles of female scientists, sharing their study and career paths, the work they do at the Marine Institute and the important contribution their work delivers. Follow #WomenInScience on the Marine Institute’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to meet some of our female scientists, learn about their work and their many successes.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science Forum has been one of the flagship events of the United Nations, since its inception in 2016. It is a key event for women and girls in science, science experts, policy-makers and diplomats to share their vision, expertise and best practices to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to data from the UN Scientific Education and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 30% of researchers worldwide are women and approximately 35% of all students in STEM-related fields in higher education are women.