Connecting Ocean Science to Society: An Emergency
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Looking back at the “One Ocean Summit”, by oceans connectes
In Brest, on 11 February 2022, at the invitation of the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, some forty heads of state and government met to make joint commitments to preserve the oceans.
During this unprecedented “One Ocean Summit”, numerous announcements were made. They mark a strong international political will to act urgently for the health of the oceans.
Numerous international meetings are scheduled for 2022, in particular the UN summit on the oceans to be held in June in Lisbon. The announcements from the recent summit in Brest are a promising sign of momentum.
Strong and positive “Brest commitments”
As part of this new dynamic, the international summit was marked by thirteen strong political commitments for the health of the oceans. These commitments, which are now known as the “Brest Commitments”, are divided into four main themes:
- Protection of marine ecosystems and promotion of sustainable fisheries: many states have reaffirmed their intention to protect 30% of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by 2030. France has achieved 33% marine protected areas, thanks to the extension of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories nature reserve. In addition, control and sanction measures must be put in place or strengthened to combat illegal fishing and preserve marine biodiversity
- The fight against plastic pollution: negotiations on a legally binding international treaty on plastic pollution, which have been under discussion for several months, are due to resume next spring. This treaty should pave the way for the end of single-use plastic. In addition, many banks and investors have pledged to invest in projects to reduce plastic waste in the oceans
- The fight against climate change: the restoration and conservation of coastal ecosystems were unanimously recognised as necessary measures for mitigating and adapting to climate change, based on the potential solutions offered by the ocean itself. Additional commitments were announced for the development of offshore renewable energy, as well as for the decarbonisation and “greening” of maritime transport
- A High Seas Treaty: A coalition of the 27 EU Member States and 13 other countries is committed to adopting a High Seas Treaty this year. The aim of the treaty is the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. These areas begin 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the coast and represent 64% of the oceans. Their exploitation is currently not subject to any legal framework.
During this first edition of the “One Ocean Summit”, two days of forums and workshops punctuated the debates prior to the meeting of the heads of state and government. Scientists, sailors, associations, entrepreneurs, local authorities and civil society exchanged their knowledge, experiences and points of view on the solutions to be adopted for a sustainably preserved ocean.
With one unanimous observation: we cannot protect what we do not know; it is therefore necessary to increase our knowledge of the ocean.
Scientists have been cooperating internationally for several decades, notably through UNESCO’s IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission). In order to pool their resources and carry out experiments at sea and research work, most major oceanographic projects are built on the principle of international cooperation.
Today, it is on the strength of the experience of these international programmes that scientists are alerting us to the deteriorating state of health of an ocean that is suffocating under the weight of human activities: overexploitation, pollution, acidification etc…
Despite this, we are still a long way from understanding the richness, diversity, functioning and all the mechanisms that govern our oceans. Society and all of its stakeholders must invest in oceanographic sciences over the long term. This is a necessity for better understanding, better action and better preservation.
Connecting science and society, an emergency
The challenges ahead to preserve a suffocating ocean are immense. And science is now telling us with certainty: it is high time to act!
We need to act quickly now and differently, to change some of our habits, to take a different path.
Science shows us the field of possibilities. It sheds light on this new path to be taken. But it will only be worthwhile if it is shared. It is therefore essential today to share knowledge, to share data, and to renew the dialogue between science and society.
Ocean sciences are a pillar of the science-education-protection triptych that must guide our actions. Innovative tools for training and education in oceanography must be developed at all levels and for all actors of our society.
The political decision itself must be taken with knowledge and consistency. In the long term, environmental education, and ocean education in particular, must help change mentalities.
This “One Ocean Summit” was an unprecedented opportunity for a strong affirmation of political will and multilateral maritime governance, in a post-pandemic world that must see the ocean in the long term. This is a very positive signal for the year 2022, which will put the ocean in the spotlight in many international political meetings, and which should see the concrete implementation of these “Brest Commitments”.
In the same vein, it is now urgent to connect science and society. We must ensure that scientific knowledge of the oceans becomes part of our common and shared culture of the oceans. This is the only way we will be able to collectively meet the challenges we face.
A collective human adventure, an exceptional amount of data collected and the beginnings of a science of the sea concerned with its environmental impact: this is how we can sum up the success of this 2022 edition of the 32nd PIRATA oceanographic campaign.
A unique sailing boat, an international low-carbon campaign, that is a world first: it was under these favourable winds that the French sailing boat Blue Observer returned to the port of Brest in March after 96 days at sea in the North and South Atlantic.
More than 28 days since the departure, and the tiredness can be read on all faces. The scientists of the PIRATA-FR32 campaign have not had a single minute to keep a logbook or to send us some "live" news...it doesn't matter: the focus is on watches and measurements!
For several days now, the 14 scientists have been sailing for the 32nd edition of the oceanographic programme PIRATA ("Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic"). From the ship "Thalassa" of the French Oceanographic Fleet on which they have embarked, they gave us some news about their journey.
For the 25th consecutive year of the programme, the PIRATA oceanographic campaign left the port of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands on 28 February 2022.
In the spring of 2021 and despite a still complicated health context, scientists spent 42 days criss-crossing the South Atlantic Ocean with the aim of quantifying the most important marine current in the ocean circulation and climate system of our planet.
One of the scientific objectives of the SWINGS campaign was to understand the evolution and development of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean.
48 sailors on board and 2 months at sea to collect, sample and filter water, with this main objective: to understand how the ocean helps regulate the climate by absorbing atmospheric CO2.
In his programme "La Terre au Carré" on France Inter, Mathieu Vidard looks back at the SWINGS expedition.
Leaving Reunion Island in January 2021, they have been together at the helm of the SWINGS mission for 8 weeks in the heart of the Southern Ocean.
For 8 weeks, 48 scientists and crew members crossed part of the Indian Ocean, passing through the Marion, Crozet, Heard and Kerguelen islands, before returning to Reunion Island 57 days later.
This year, 12 scientists and 25 crew members embarked on the 31st mission of the PIRATA oceanographic programme from the port of Brest (France) instead of the usual port since 2015 of Mindelo (Cape Verde), due to the pandemic.
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