Two key international cooperative agreements reflect the growing recognition of the key role that oceans play in developing national and regional economies, achieving the Sustainable Development goals and addressing climate change. The Galway Statement signed by the European Union, Canada and the United States on 24 May 2013 recognizes “the value of our ongoing cooperation on ocean science and observation in the Atlantic Ocean”. The Belém Statement, signed between the European Union, South Africa and Brazil on 13 July 2017 – in 2018 extensions to Argentina and Cabo Verde – recognizes “the mutual benefit that would accrue from linking research activities in the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean with those in the North Atlantic”.
In 2015, the United Nations agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals (SDGs), and 195 countries agreed on the Paris Accord. In 2017, a call for action was adopted by member states at the high-level UN Ocean Conference supporting the implementation of SDG 14 to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’. The document recommends that marine scientific research should be increased to inform and support decision-making, and to promote knowledge hubs and networks to enhance the sharing of scientific data, best practices and know-how. Moreover, stakeholders should take actions to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources. The action is to dedicate greater resources to marine scientific research, such as inter-disciplinary research and sustained ocean and coastal observation, as well as the collection and sharing of data and knowledge.
G7 leaders have also shown an interest in the importance of ocean science since 2016 (Tsukuba Communiqué), most recently with the 2018 publication ‘Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities’.
Another opportunity is the coming decade (2021 – 2030), which has been declared by the United Nations as the ‘Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’. We must seize these opportunities, to focus our efforts on developing an ocean observing system that fulfills our Atlantic and global stewardship responsibilities.
The current ocean observing system remains fragmented. In addition, several of the networks, systems, and individual contributions are not well resourced and lack long-term funding perspectives. Few networks are truly fit-for-purpose, and sustainability remains a challenge for most.
Therefore, there is a strong rationale to advance the current system components to develop an international, more sustainable, efficient, integrated, and fit-for-purpose ocean observing system that will improve the value for money, extent, completeness, quality and ease of access to ocean data delivering comprehensive ocean information to assess current trends and predict future scenarios.