EASAC and JRC have published the summary of the upcoming ‘Marine sustainability in an age of changing oceans and seas’ report in honor of the World Ocean Day on 8 June 2015. The full report with recommendations will be out later this year.
The seas and oceans are under pressure from a widening array of human activities, pollution and growing coastal populations. These multiple pressures have created an increasing focus on coherent marine and maritime governance globally. However, the scientific understanding of marine systems is constantly evolving and there remain considerable uncertainties. Policymaking and policy implementation must recognise these uncertainties and drive efforts to address them, conclude the European Science Academies (EASAC).
EASAC is the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, a network of the national science academies of the EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. Recognising the emerging governance challenges for integrating the various aspects of marine policy (fisheries management, biodiversity conservation and marine environmental protection), EASAC has conducted a study on this issue, in collaboration with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The summary of this study published today constitutes a scientific contribution to World Oceans Day. A full report with detailed conclusions will be published later this year.
Marine sustainability and human society are intrinsically interlinked. The oceans are crucial for global food security, human health and regulation of climate. The livelihoods of over 3 billion people worldwide depend upon services from marine and coastal biodiversity. Under the EU Blue Growth Strategy new marine goods and services, such as marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology and marine minerals, are seen as important sources of employment, economic security and sustainable development.
EASAC’s study looks at a number of key aspects for sustainable development in changing oceans and seas, and particularly highlights the key scientific challenges in addressing these issues. While there is a need for an ecosystem-based management of marine environments, policymakers must be aware of the uncertainties and limitations in characterising marine ecosystem structure and function and key physical and biological drivers. Policymakers and scientists need to work together to define what level of disturbance is unsustainable. This must also be based upon a combined understanding of the structure and functioning of ecosystems and the connectivity of the marine system within and between Member States’ marine waters.
Policymakers need to build knowledge on more ecologically efficient ocean harvest to meet the demands from growing populations. Options for ecologically efficient aquaculture or shifting harvest from predatory fish to lower levels in the food chain should be explored. Policies such as those on deep-sea mining and marine renewable energy development need to be informed by on-going analysis of the impacts of different policy options, assessing environmental costs and uncertainties.
To ensure that there is the scientific capacity to support the policy, EASAC recommends the establishment of a European Marine University as a virtual institution. The European Marine University should be charged with leading the development of enhanced graduate education, training and research in inter-disciplinary integrative marine science.
Public understanding of the importance of the ocean to mankind should be enhanced, as the basis for a better appreciation of the environmental costs of economic development. EASAC asks for more attention for ocean literacy and citizen science initiatives and strong emphasis on the development of communication and outreach skills in research funding.
You can access the summary here (pdf).