On 16 June 2021, the European Marine Board (EMB) published a new policy brief on sustaining in situ ocean observations in the age of a digital Ocean. The new EMB brief focuses on highlighting the necessity for and benefits of in situ observations, funding and governance challenges, and the investment needed for their transformation and sustainability.
Following the launch, EMB hosted a webinar with a presentation by Prof. Ed Hill (NOC, UK) unpacking the policy brief and a panel discussion with co-authors. Maria Hood, the EU coordinator of the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative and Pierre-Yves Le Traon, the Scientific Director of Mercator Ocean International and head of the EU4OceanObs Project, both contributed significantly to this policy brief.
The brief emphasises the need for a globally integrated and optimised ocean observing system as Ocean observations are still mostly nationally funded with short-term and insecure funding, involving diverse institutions and not well coordinated on a global scale.
There is need for a whole system – more than its parts, highlights Prof Ed Hill (NOC). We need to co-design a holistic observing system that integrates all in situ capabilities with satellite observations and models.
As part of its recommendations, the policy brief proposes the recognition of in situ Ocean observations as enabling infrastructure generating public-good data, which would deliver fit-for-purpose data and information supporting sustainable development, the ‘EU Green Deal’ and sustainable blue economy. It also recommends that a process should be established to review the costs and performance of the system and map its economic and environmental benefits. It should build on European and global coordination efforts, create partnerships with the private sector and civil society, and be integrated with satellite observations and models.
We are at the beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and all the Decadal challenges and all the Sustainable Development Goals require better monitoring of the Ocean. It’s time to move beyond this 30-year pilot experiment and transition to a sustained and comprehensive global ocean observing system – Maria Hood (EU coordinator of the G7 FSOI Coordination Centre/ EU4OceanObs)
Given today’s digital context, the development of Digital Ocean Twins and their application provide additional motivation for a robust Ocean data and information infrastructure. Without sufficient Ocean observations we risk a digital void in the vast volume where the twin subsurface Ocean should be.
Without sustained observations sensing the subsurface Ocean, we are about to go into the digital age where decisions will be machine assisted by imposing our deeply engrained human ‘out of sight, out of mind’ bias about the Ocean beneath the waves.
This 9th EMB policy brief aims to inform national- and European policy makers, funders, and governance influencers; the G7 and G20; and UN agencies such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. A result of an ad hoc Working Group established by the EMB, the impact of the policy brief will be followed closely and assessed over the next two years.
The G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative is developing an activity to review G7 Member governance, coordination and funding of ocean observations to share information and best practices that are needed to fund and coordinate a sustained global system.