Connecting to the oceans: supporting ocean literacy and public engagement

By SalM on March 16, 2021 in News Articles

Improved public understanding of the ocean and the importance of sustainable ocean use, or ocean literacy, is essential for achieving global commitments to sustainable development by 2030 and beyond. However, growing human populations (particularly in mega-cities), urbanisation and socio-economic disparity threaten opportunities for people to engage and connect directly with ocean environments. Thus, a major challenge in engaging the whole of society in achieving ocean sustainability by 2030 is to develop strategies to improve societal connections to the ocean. The concept of ocean literacy reflects public understanding of the ocean, but is also an indication of connections to, and attitudes and behaviours towards, the ocean. Improving and progressing global ocean literacy has potential to catalyse the behaviour changes necessary for achieving a sustainable future. Using examples from the literature, we outline the potential for positive change towards a sustainable future based on knowledge that already exists. We focus on four drivers that can influence and improve ocean literacy and societal connections to the ocean:  education,  cultural connections,  technological developments, and  knowledge exchange and science-policy interconnections. We explore how each driver plays a role in improving perceptions of the ocean to engender more widespread societal support for effective ocean management and conservation. In doing so, we develop an ocean literacy toolkit, a practical resource for enhancing ocean connections across a broad range of contexts worldwide.

To date, the ocean literacy movement has primarily been driven by scientists and educators whose work is associated with marine science . However, as outlined above, ocean literacy is a challenge and opportunity for all parts of society, including educators, children and adults, wider community groups, scientists, consumers and policy/decision-makers , and there is a resulting need for more inclusive approaches to marine science and decision-making. Ocean literacy is founded upon knowledge sharing and learning and thus, relies on the communication of accessible and up-to-date marine science information ). It is no longer enough to ‘simply do the science and publish an academic paper’ , and the science communication efforts and initiatives that many authors of this collaborative paper have contributed to  exemplify the need and possibility of developing and sharing research further to achieve community and policy impact outside of ‘the Ivory Tower’. Scientists can also communicate research in indirect ways, such as supporting citizen science projects that increase community trust in science and conservation, engaging with remote learners in ocean-focused massive open online courses (MOOCs) , or by collaborating with ‘ocean champions’, community leaders or celebrities who can deliver marine science messages to wider audiences.

COVID-19 Downturn Creates an Opportunity to Study a Quieter Ocean

By SalM on March 12, 2021 in News Articles

Most studies of the effects of ocean noise from natural and human sources broadcast acoustic signals and monitor for any resulting short-term effects on marine life, or they work backward from observed effects to determine sound sources. IQOE is based upon the recognition that if added noise already harms animals and affects marine ecosystems negatively, then measuring effects of reducing noise should be a key goal of marine bioacoustics.

Beginning in January 2020, travel restrictions and economic slowdowns occurring globally in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—and intensified by an oil price war—put the brakes on much human activity in the ocean. Drastic decreases were seen in shipping, tourism and recreation, fishing and aquaculture, energy exploration and extraction, naval and coast guard exercises, offshore construction, and port and channel dredging.

The global pandemic has thus created a chance for scientists to determine how a sudden decrease in human activities—already attested to by atmospheric and terrestrial measures—and the subsequent slow recovery of the global economy affect sound levels in the ocean.

Other unintentional historical events provide analogies to the current drop in human activities on and in the world’s oceans. The start (1945) and stop (1980) of aboveground nuclear testing provided traces of carbon-14 and tritium, whose movements and decay have provided major insights into ocean physics, chemistry, and biology. And after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Arlington, Va., on September 11, 2001, the cancellation of hundreds of civilian airline flights allowed scientists to study the effects of jet contrails (or their absence) on weather patterns.

Listening to Quieter Oceans

A previous opportunity to study the effects of reduced ocean noise arose from the slowdown of shipping following the events of September 11, 2001. For example, a group of biologists studied the levels of stress hormones in endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy. They found that during the four years after 2001, stress hormone levels increased in mid-September as the whales prepared to migrate from their northern feeding and mating area to warmer southern waters where they calve. However, immediately after September 11, 2001, ocean noise levels from shipping decreased, and levels of stress hormone dropped [Rolland et al., 2012]. This study suggests that living in an industrialized ocean chronically stresses these whales and that the reduction in noise reduced their stress.

Fortuitously for the ocean research community, a large number of nonmilitary hydrophones were already deployed worldwide before the pandemic, so there is a significant opportunity to study its ramifications on ocean sound globally. IQOE is working with the ocean observing community to identify a global network of civilian-operated, passive acoustic hydrophones (i.e., those that record ambient sounds rather than generating sounds of their own) useful for this purpose. This network could also serve more broadly as a prototype global hydrophone network for scientific and monitoring purposes.

As of February 8, 2021, we had identified 231 hydrophones that could contribute to a global analysis of the effects of the pandemic on ocean sound (below). Most identified so far are located in waters of the United States and Canada, but increasing numbers are being added elsewhere, particularly in European waters. Meanwhile, more acoustic instrumentation and measurements are clearly needed across the Southern Hemisphere.

It is important that acoustic monitoring by many existing hydrophones continue at least through 2021 to make sure researchers can observe a complete return to baseline conditions if the pandemic subsides by then. Such consistency is a challenge, however, because the pandemic has interrupted the placement and servicing of hydrophones and other parts of ocean observing systems in most of the world.

Because most hydrophone installations are autonomous recorders that are not equipped for telemetry (Figure 1), most hydrophone data are not available in real time; further, the pandemic has delayed the recovery of some data. The schedule of data recovery dictated by pandemic-related disruptions will affect the timing of the global analysis of hydrophone data for assessing large-scale impacts. However, researchers have already released some preliminary real-time results detailing regional ocean quieting near Vancouver, Canada [Thomson and Barclay, 2020]. Extending these observations to include measurements on a global scale should be exciting.

The existing hydrophone network covers coastal areas, which are likely those most influenced by local changes in human activity, and it also includes deep-ocean stations that can measure effects of low-frequency sound sources over large areas. The more areas that can be sampled, the more accurate our view of the global effect of COVID-19 on ocean sound will be. As such, IQOE continues to welcome expansion of the global passive acoustic network.

A Broader Scope for Ocean Acoustics

Beyond analyzing effects of pandemic-related decreases in human activity on ocean sound and potential follow-on effects on ocean ecosystems, the fledgling hydrophone network will continue contributing to the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). This system is a worldwide collaboration of observing assets, including Argo floats, sea level monitoring stations, fixed and drifting buoys, and others.

Timely maturation of a global marine passive acoustic network is helping to meet the GOOS goal of monitoring ocean sound. Such capabilities will allow researchers to further analyze acoustic data to shed light on the distribution of ocean sound and its effects in Anthropocene seas [Duarte et al., 2021]. These efforts will go a long way toward improving our limited understanding of the effects that humans have on marine life and ecosystems.


UN warns of further Covid-related “upheaval” for aquaculture operators

By SalM on March 10, 2021 in News Articles

Covid-19 has caused “widespread upheaval” for the fishing and aquaculture industry around the world, according to a new FAO report.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, The impact of COVID-19 on fisheries and aquaculture food systems, was launched by the UN’s deputy agriculture chief recently.

“Production has been disrupted, supply chains have been interrupted and consumer spending restricted by various lockdowns”, said Maria Helena Semedo.

And, the report warns, as containment restraints continue to affect supply and demand, further interference may impact the sector throughout the year.

The brunt of lockdown

While containment restrictions are expected to have pushed fish supply, consumption and trade revenues for 2020 into decline, the report noted that global aquaculture production – the cultivation of all organisms including plants, and other saltwater or freshwater organisms – may also have recorded its first drop in years.

“Containment measures have provoked far-reaching changes, many of which are likely to persist in the long term,” said Ms Semedo.

The report stresses that every stage of the fisheries and aquaculture supply chain is susceptible to being disrupted or stopped by these restrictions.

The Fish Price Index is down for most traded species and restaurant and hotel closures in many countries have prompted falling demand for fresh fish.

“The impact has been significant in developing countries, especially those with large informal sectors, where small-scale and artisanal workers and communities depend on fisheries for their food security, livelihoods”, the deputy FAO chief said.

“They have borne the brunt of restrictions”.

The FAO report indicates that unsold aquaculture products would increase live fish stocks, creating higher costs for feeding and more fish mortalities.

Frozen over fresh

And Covid-19-related restrictions on crews along with market conditions have reduced fishing, leaving a slight decline in global wild catches last year.

The coronavirus has also caused consumer preferences to shift as households stock up on non-perishable foods, replacing the demand for fresh fish with a preference for packaged and frozen products.

Meanwhile, before the pandemic, the sector was trending upwards, with annual fish consumption growing significantly over the last decade to an average of more than 20 kilos per person.

Moving forward

While FAO pressed for disruptive border restriction measures on food production to be minimised for food security, the report called for sectoral and regional organisations to manage fisheries and aquaculture together during the pandemic.

Covid-19’s impact on women – already vulnerable as food producers, processors and vendors – should also be considered when government’s decide on support levels.

Amidst so much uncertainty, FAO reminded that the 34th session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI 34), taking place this week, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries – the landmark instrument endorsed by FAO member states that has been guiding efforts towards sustainable fisheries and aquaculture around the world.

Hatch launches the world’s first women in aquaculture innovation studio

By SalM on March 8, 2021 in News Articles

Hatch, a global venture and accelerator programme for the aquaculture industry, will launch the world’s first global innovation studio targeted for female entrepreneurs in the aquaculture and alternative seafood industry.

Hatch’s aim is to offer business support to develop and mentor the next generation of female aquaculture and alternative seafood entrepreneurs and to attract more talent to the sector.

The challenges associated with the ever-increasing global population have made it more important than ever for the aquaculture food industry to be able to perform at its full potential. Inclusion and diversity are essential for shaping a sustainable future for the aquaculture industry. Yet, according to the FAO, the gender gap in the food and agriculture industries is extensive.

Women are a major untapped innovation resource for the aquaculture industry. With this initiative we hope to close some of the gender gaps we see in entrepreneurial businesses and the sector

COVID-19: How the Virus has frozen Arctic Research

By SalM on March 5, 2021 in News Articles

With the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the world has found itself in a global health emergency, which has caused a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and brought normal life around the world to a halt for the better part of a year. The Arctic Institute’s COVID-19 series offers an interesting compilation of best practices, challenges and diverse approaches to the pandemic applied by various Arctic states, regions, and communities. We hope that this series will contribute to our understanding of how the region has coped with this unprecedented crisis as well as provide food for thought about possibilities and potential of development of regional cooperation.

Within the Arctic Circle, polar research is a complex interdisciplinary field that covers most aspects of physical sciences, geosciences and life sciences, together with engineering and social sciences. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Arctic scientific community is overwhelming – researchers are missing an opportunity to conduct field work in the far North – from the depths of the Arctic Ocean to the atmospheric layers and beyond. The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has halted most of the Arctic research for the 2020 season, and most likely for the 2021 season.

Postponed for better times

Countries with interests in the Arctic have decided to postpone or cancel seasonal work in high latitudes this year.1) First, scientists do not want to spread the disease within local settlements and vulnerable Indigenous communities, as they often have limited access to health and financial resources. Second, cancelling field work helps avoid many new COVID-19 cases, as research team members usually work together closely both at observation sites and aboard research vessels. Moreover, COVID-19 has created much uncertainty and added challenges for the implementation of scientific projects both logistically and financially. While remote data collection continues, the international Arctic projects on climate change, oceanography, weather, biodiversity and other topics have been postponed until further notice, resulting in negative consequences for scientific circles. The consequences for the scientific circles are negative: in 2020 they are missing international cooperation and work with Indigenous communities.

Dealing with gaps in data

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought polar scientific activity to a near-standstill. Every single country studying changes in the Arctic has been affected by the global pandemic in 2020. For researchers this means there will be a ‘gap’ in long-time data collection, which is crucial for understanding the evolution of Earth. To understand global processes, like climate change, and to develop climate scenarios, scientists need information about year-to-year changes in weather, sea ice extent, permafrost dynamics parameters, etc.2) Without this data scientists are not able to make correct predictions in the future, as well as help local people in their everyday life as they face challenges associated with living in a rapidly-changing Arctic. Scientific data may help locals avoid natural disasters and health problems, as their close relationship to the land and reliance on it adapts due to climate change. Also, lack of knowledge about the region due to the research gap of 2020 may result in plenty of negative effects on food and water security, crops and fisheries, safety and other aspects of human life. Moreover, the cancellation of the projects focusing on monitoring of the natural hazards (such as floods, wildfires, permafrost thaw) causes delays in the work of local emergency warning systems in the Arctic.

Science at sea and on ice

The pandemic has also led to logistical challenges for the projects at the Arctic seas. Marine research expeditions have been either cancelled or shortened dramatically this navigation season. The priority aboard a research vessel is the safety and no risk for everyone. The Coronavirus shutdown has even forced the MOSAiC mission, the German icebreaker Polarstern trapped in the Arctic ice for one year, to leave its position to complete a crew changeover.3) In another significant example, the EastGRIP project, which is based in Greenland and focuses on climate change and understanding the role of ice streams beneath glaciers as a contributor to rising sea levels, has suspended ice drilling in 2020 to, after continuous work at the site for the past five years.4) Given all the circumstances, research teams worldwide have to change their plans and adapt to new conditions, which results in missing unique data, losing time, and contributes to shrinking budgets for the current projects.

The field season in the North is short, and many researchers work in a very narrow time frame to test new methods, measure parameters and collect samples. At the start of the 2020 Arctic field season (usually starting around May), as a response to the pandemic, countries implemented travel restrictions that limited entry to the national territories for foreign polar scientists. However, some national surveys and research groups were able to start the season in mid-summer, with help of local partnerships, which enabled them to carry out Arctic operations on both land and sea, but with special coronavirus precautions in place.5)

International cooperation during the Covid-19 pandemic

Many polar expeditions are international in nature, but during 2020, nearly all of them became national due to travel restrictions. The Arctic States continue to conduct some limited research in the North working within their national territories;6)7). Trying to realize at least some plans, few expeditions of the non-Arctic states, as well as the European joint projects, took place in the Arctic high seas: Chinese scientists set off for the Arctic expedition aboard the icebreaker Xuelong 2 to collect sediment cores8) scientists from UK, Norway and Germany went for sampling in the Nordic and Greenland Seas to improve their understanding of essential climate variables there.9) And Svalbard remains a place of international scientific research, although the 2020 season is considered to be a missing year of data in Arctic reconnaissance, since many research projects have seen limited activity.10)

The most exceptional achievement of 2020 is the excellent opportunity to continue the international research expedition in the Arctic Ocean – the Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) – amid the Covid pandemics. The German vessel Polarstern with support of the Russian icebreaker Akademik Fedorov (later replaced by the Russian icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn) started the drift in the Arctic Ocean in October 2019. The MOSAiC expedition followed the Fridtjof Nansen’s drift theory – locked in the ice, the Polarstern with an international team on board was carried for hundreds of miles towards the North Pole. Unexpected challenges posed by the pandemic resulted in urgent replanning of team exchange procedures and the use of other German vessels as soon as international icebreakers were prohibited from being involved in the operations. Successful return of scientists from the Arctic adventure in October 2020 brought unique data that would be used for understanding of a rapidly changing Arctic.

Future of the polar research: vague but exciting

To be frank, the post-COVID-19 future is hazy and challenging for polar research. The remoteness and limited transportation options in the Arctic require for scientific activities to be planned well in advance. Without additional funding and supportive grants, some of the planned polar projects may never be implemented, which will likely affect early career scientists working on shorter low-budget projects.

The entire world has been hit by COVID-19, but additional support is needed for the polar community, which is experiencing a sharp slowdown. To compensate, the research community should work diligently to establish scientific collaborations for the future. Most importantly, nobody knows how long the coronavirus outbreak will curtail research at high latitudes, but the post-COVID recovery presents an excellent opportunity to increase investment in polar science, which would create new jobs, fulfill climate change commitments, and build a stronger research community.

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.