Designing, implementing, and sustaining a global ocean observing system that responds to the requirements of multiple stakeholders for ocean data and information requires international partnerships and a framework for international ocean governance. This in turn, allows national and regional activities to plug-in into a coordinated global network, to create a comprehensive and interoperable global system.

Today, 60% of the oceans are outside the borders of national jurisdiction. This implies a shared international responsibility. Under the overarching UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a plethora of jurisdictional rights, institutions, and specific frameworks have been set up to organise the way humans use these waters. – EC Directorate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

The European Union plays a leading role in international decision-making bodies, programmes and partnerships working to improve the coordination and governance of the global ocean observing system. This in turn contributes to improving coverage, quality and capacity of global ocean observations for better monitoring of ocean health, climate change, marine pollution, sustainable exploitation of the maritime resources and maritime security for both Europe and the world.

THE EU4OceanObs Action seeks to strengthen the EU’s participation and influence in two overarching international partnerships:

  • the G7, through the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative (FSOI)
  • and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) through the GEO Blue Planet Initiative.

These two partnerships represent the upstream and the downstream ends of the global ocean observing value chain. The G7 FSOI works ‘upstream’ to generate the data required to meet global policy directives and to make the data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. The GEO Blue Planet action works ‘downstream’ to promote and demonstrate the use of ocean observations for marine and maritime applications. Through its direct interaction with stakeholders, GEO Blue Planet serves as an important feed-back loop to observing system design to ensure that the system is fit-for-purpose.

The EU4OceanObs action coordinators of each partnership will work together and in close collaboration with the main international decision-making bodies and programmes, the EU observing and data infrastructures and projects (EuroArgo, EuroFleets+, EMBRC, Copernicus Marine Service, EMODnet, Blue-Cloud, etc.) along the value chain. In doing so, EU4OceanObs will ensure that the EU’s contribution to the global ocean observing system is a comprehensive and seamless end-to-end service that promotes and supports international efforts.

EU4OceanObs, through its G7 FSOI and GEO Blue Planet actions, will contribute to the following EU and international governing bodies, partnerships and programmes:

The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) is a sustained collaborative system of ocean observations, encompassing in situ networks, satellite systems, governments, UN agencies and individual scientists. A programme executed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, GOOS coordinates observations around the global ocean for three critical themes: climate, operational services, and marine ecosystem health. These themes correspond to the GOOS mandate to contribute to the UNFCCC Convention on climate change, the UN convention on biodiversity and the IOC/WMO mandates to provide operational ocean services, respectively.

The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) is co-sponsored by the WMO, the IOC of UNESCO, UNEP and ISC. It regularly assesses the status of the global climate observing system and the implementation of the atmosphere, land and ocean and produces guidance for its improvement. GCOS expert panels maintain definitions of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), including sea acidification and seal level, which are required to systematically observe Earth’s changing climate. The observations supported by GCOS contribute to solving challenges in climate research and also underpin climate services and adaptation measures.

Since 2020 the work of GCOS secretariat has been partially supported by the European Union. This recognises the links between the work of GCOS and the EU’s Copernicus Programme.

The Group of Seven (G7) is an intergovernmental organisation composed of representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union is also a member, holding all the privileges and obligations of membership but without the right to host or chair a summit. The G7 often serves as a pathfinder group, piloting activities for broader G20 and UN initiatives that may be too complex to manage with a larger set of partners.

The G7, through its Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative, aims to enhance the global ocean observing system that provides ocean data required for the health of our seas and oceans, for weather and climate forecasting, and for the development of a sustainable Blue Economy.

The G7 FSOI will link to relevant initiatives of the G7 Open Science Working Group and the Group of Senior Officials Global Research Infrastructures Working Group. The G7 FSOI collaborates with other G7 and related working groups, including:

  • Group of Senior Officials on Global Research Infrastructure
  • G7 Open Science Working Group

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is an intergovernmental partnership that improves the availability, access and use of Earth observations for a sustainable planet. Composed of more than 100 national governments and 100 Participating Organisations, GEO promotes open, coordinated and sustained data sharing and infrastructure for better research, policy making, informed decisions and action across many disciplines.

GEO promotes activities related to ocean observations for societal benefits through the GEO Blue Planet Initiative, which aims to ensure the sustained development and use of ocean and coastal observations to respond to societal needs.

GEO also fosters ocean related activities through other initiatives, including:

  • Aquawatch Initiative, which seeks to develop and build the global capacity and utility of Earth Observation-derived water quality data, products and information to support water resources management and decision making. 
  • GEO Biodiversity Observation Network’s Marine arm (MBON), which is a “coalition of the willing” who agree to share knowledge and know-how to evaluate changes of biodiversity in the ocean, including data, products, protocols and methods, data systems and software
  • GEO Data Working Group, which is working with the GEO community and with external stakeholders to advance open data policies, thereby improving the uptake of Earth observations for the benefit of all stakeholders.

The EU Office of the GEO Blue Planet, as part of EU4OceanObs, seeks to strengthen the European Union’s participation and influence in GEO international partnership and its activities on ocean observations.

The AtlantOS programme builds on the EU Horizon 2020 AtlantOS project and the Galway and Belen cooperative agreements. AtlantOS supports cooperation, alignment of interests and the implementation of an integrated All-Atlantic Ocean Observing and information System. This in turn connects a number of highly relevant existing and future ocean observing activities to meet user needs. Its coordination is collaboratively supported by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA), the All AtlaNtic Cooperation for Ocean Research and innovation (AANChOR) and other national initiatives around the Atlantic basin. The programme supports the Atlantic basin scale implementation of the Global Observing Ocean System (GOOS) and contributes to the GEO Blue Planet Initiative.

OceanPredict is an international network and science programme that facilitates knowledge exchange between scientists and experts of operational oceanography from around the world to accelerate, strengthen and increase the impact of ocean prediction.

TheInternational Ocean Governance Forum (IOG Forum) brings together ocean actors and stakeholders within and beyond Europe to share understanding, experiences and good practices on ocean governance. The IOG Forum supports the development of the EU’s international ocean governance agenda for the future of our oceans. This agenda selected 50 actions to ensure clean, healthy, safe, secure and sustainably used oceans. It is an integral part of the European Commission’s Green Deal and the EU’s response to the 2030 Agenda, in particular, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 Life Below Water.

The EMODnet PArtnership for China and Europe (EMOD-PACE) is a collaborative project with China aiming to promote international ocean governance and support the implementation of global commitments through closer collaboration between Europe and China. This will be achieved by developing new information products, improving the access to marine observation data and data products, marine expert knowledge and by establishing a close working relationship between the Chinese Centre for Marine Meteorological and Oceanographic Climate Data and the European Marine Observation Data Network(EMODnet).

In the last week of January 2021, the Chinese National Marine Data and Information Service (NMIDS) and EMODnet jointly ran the online mid-term meeting of the EMOD-PACE and CEMDnet projects. Progress of the past year was reviewed and the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between NMDIS and EMODnet was presented, which further confirms the commitments from both sides.

The European Commission’s for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) provides funding for the EMODnet-PACE project through the Partnership Funding Instrument (PI) and it is managed by the Unit FPI.4 Industrialised Countries & Foreign Policy Support.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) is a 30 million Euro joint programme co-financed by the European Commission and the African Union Commission. The Programme intends to adapt and use the Copernicus Programme data and services in the African context. GMES and Africa is designed to specifically respond to African needs with respect to the development of services for water, natural resources, marine and coastal areas, address the global needs to manage the environment, and ensure civil security.