Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Commissioner Vella meeting with marine and ocean science institutes

Event date:
02/03/2016 - 00:00
Table of Contents
    discussed blue growth, climate change, research priorities, sustainable funding, observation, mapping



    Following visits to a number of European research institutes, Commissioner Vella had invited a number of CEO's of institutes and a selection of others to exchange ideas as to how research could contribute towards the EU's goals for blue growth and ocean governance.

    ·                     Observation and mapping

    Forecasting the future depends on understanding the past and this requires regular and careful observations. Ocean observation, particularly via in-water sensors was seen as a priority. It was seen as a prerequisite for science, for developing forecasting capabilities, for de-risking economic activities in the ocean and for mastering big societal challenges. The International Oceanographic Commission's Global Ocean Observing System is the global system for observations and modelling to support ocean services worldwide and it has an active non-profit associate in Europe (EuroGOOS) since 1994. Lack of investment in this field has been a problem.

    Mapping the ocean floor was mentioned as a second priority to improve our still fragmentary knowledge. For instance, the search for MH370 and the recent Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (CAN-EU-US) seabed mapping transect across the Atlantic had revealed hitherto unknown volcanoes and mountain ranges as well as errors in charts of over half a kilometre in depth and up to 2 km in the horizontal plane. The EU and several Member States are active currently in an international seabed mapping working group. Lack of investment is also a problem in this field.

    Cooperation between marine research institutes is already very good. However, participants recommended a coherent strategy for investment in ocean observation (as currently discussed in the context of the G7 Research Ministers' Preparatory Meetings, concerning "Future of the Oceans and Seas"). It was recommended to develop a fit for purpose capacity to map, observe and predict ocean state and variability. This would be important for managing risk and de-risking for job creation. The importance of concentrated research on marine geo-hazards such as submarine landslides and tsunamis was also mentioned as a priority.

    As a first step, an assessment report on the economic and societal benefits associated with ocean observing would be beneficial in helping to make stronger arguments in support of national investments in ocean measurement.

    • Coherence of EU policy areas

    The CEOs felt that there is scope for getting better coordination between research policy and maritime and environment policies and for the various EU finding streams to work better together as a means of accessing more funding for seas and oceans.

    • Marine resources

    The need was seen to base sustainable aquaculture on high diversity and to examine the feasibility of harvesting lower trophic levels.  The potential of blue biotechnology for blue growth was also mentioned and in this context the need for proper benefits sharing. Mechanisms for better protection of the high seas across EEZs, via co-governance between countries was called for, with attention to biological corridors between marine protected areas.

    Marine resources were almost entirely absent from Expo2015 which was devoted to “feeding the planet: energy for life”. We need to step up our actions and draw attention to the potential of the oceans to produce healthy food in a sustainable way. Having regard to Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans, seas and marine resources how can we use the resources of the ocean to provide food, energy and health to a global population that is growing in numbers, prosperity and expectations?

    • Research questions

    The CEOs agreed that the recent paper from the European Academies on marine sustainability in an age of changing seas and oceans, complemented by the European Marine Board's Navigating the Future IV paper (2013), represented a good starting point for the questions to be answered. The following points were emphasised in particular.

    How will climate change impact our oceans?

    • The ocean provides half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs heat and carbon from the atmosphere. Its circulation has a profound impact on marine life and the weather. Overturning in the Atlantic and its different interconnected systems regulates the climate in Europe. How will the unprecedented rise in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere affect the ocean, its biodiversity, our lives and livelihoods?
    • How much ice is going to melt, how will it affect sea-levels and communities both globally and locally?
    • In the context of climate change how can we still contribute to mitigation/adaptation in the oceans? How does our focus on climate change relate to the oceans and seas?


    How can we work with nature for greater sustainability?

    • Via an ecosystem approach for fisheries and breakthroughs in sustainable aquaculture.
    • How can we better understand deep sea ecosystems, especially those below 2000 metres, and what are the main priorities here?
    • Next Step

    Commissioner Vella expressed thanks to the group. They had certainly provided food for thought and a follow-up will be announced shortly.

    Ed Hill, Executive Director of the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton, UK

     presentation by Ed Hill

    Frederic Briand, Director General of CIESM, The Mediterranean Science Commission, Monaco

    presentation by Frederic Briand

    François Jacq, Président-Directeur general of IFREMER

    presentation by François Jacq

    Henk BrinkhuisDirector of NIOZ, Royal NL Institute for Sea Research

    presentation by Henk Brinkhuis

    Niall McDonough, Executive Secretary, European Marine Board 

    presentation by Niall McDonough

    Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute, Galway

    Peter Herzig, Executive Director of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel

    presentation by Peter Herzig

    Vladimir Ryabinin, is Executive Secretary of the International Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO

    presentation by Vladimir Ryabinin,

    Evangelos Papathanassiou, Research Director of the Institute of Oceanography, HCMR