The project EU4OceanObs, entitled “international ocean governance: EU component to global ocean observation”, aims to catalyse and strengthen essential partnerships between European and international infrastructures and programmes across the ocean observing value chain to increase ocean observing, data sharing, and use of ocean data for societal benefit. Within this context, the project directly facilitates the European action coordination of the G7 Future of the Seas and Ocean Initiative (G7 FSOI) and Group on Earth Observation’s Blue Planet Initiative (GEO Blue Planet) – two major partnerships working towards coordinated, fit-for-purpose and sustained global ocean observations. The project has also been expanded to provide European-to-international engagement support for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Ocean Decade).

Leveraging and promoting European ocean observing activities within this international landscape, the project provides a unique cross-coordination mechanism to harmonise European actions and ensure evolving priorities are considered at the international level.

The need to observe the ocean has never been so high. Ocean observations are critical to understand and adapt to climate change, to protect marine resources and biodiversity, to support a sustainable blue economy and bolster coastal resilience. Ocean observation is a first, essential link in the value chain that runs from observations to data, models, services, actionable information, and knowledge, and is indispensable to support and guide European and international ocean, climate, and biodiversity policies.

Europe is making significant investments in the domain of ocean observations through major initiatives such as the Copernicus Earth Observation programme, the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet), the European Research Infrastructures (Euro-Argo, JERICO, EuroFleets+, EMSO, ICOS, EMBRC), research and innovation projects under Horizon Europe and H2020 frameworks, the European Digital Twin of the Ocean, and the EU Mission on Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Water. The European Ocean Observing System framework (EOOS) aims to align and integrate existing capacities and assets, supported by EuroGOOS, the European Marine Board, JPI Oceans and other stakeholders.

These initiatives collectively seek address the value-chain of ocean observation spanning research, observations (in situ and satellite), data sharing and access, and derived operational products and services, underpinning European marine, climate and environment policies and related initiatives. These include the EU Green Deal, Integrated Maritime Policy, the EU International Ocean Governance Agenda, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the EU Arctic Policy, etc. However, the alignment of these initiatives on the international agenda needs to be strengthened to foster coordinated and collaborative action and leverage global partnerships towards fit-for-purpose, sustained and comprehensive global ocean observation.

Consequently, EU4Oceanobs is designed to facilitate European to international collaborations to improve the flow of delivery across the ocean observing value chain beginning with drivers such as European policy directives and research priorities and extending to ocean observations, data sharing, modelling and forecasting, application development, and user uptake and feedback.

The next phase of the project, running from 2023 to 2027, builds on its initial mission, continuing its work through its coordination actions in the G7 FSOI and GEO Blue Planet, and will be expanded to provide EU-to-international engagement support for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. A new focus also includes coordination across the ocean observing value chain to demonstrate economic and societal benefits of observing networks, ocean prediction, applications, and use of ocean information for decision making needed to bolster and support sustained investments in ocean observing.

The second phase of EU4OceanObs is funded under the Horizon Europe framework through a contribution agreement between the European Research Executive Agency (REA) and Mercator Ocean International.

The EU4OceanObs project was initiated as a Partnership Instrument managed by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments and implemented by Mercator Ocean International. Its overall objective was to make the European Union more visible as a global actor, defend its interests and strengthen its influence in international decision-making bodies related to the collection and use of ocean observations. It carried out its work by supporting the European coordination actions in

  • the G7 FSOI, to increase deployments of ocean observing infrastructure and improve access to global data aligned with EU requirements
  • GEO Blue Planet, to develop and promote European marine and maritime applications from ocean observing data in line with Sustainable Development Goals and International Ocean Governance.

In its first 3 years, the EU4OceanObs project successfully strengthened these international partnerships and influenced the workplans of the G7 FSOI and GEO Blue Planet, fostering global agreements based on EU priorities for observations, data sharing, and development of marine applications based on EU data and information products. It increased non-EU data sharing, increased the number of developing countries participating in global forums, and increased the number of EU programmes and experts engaged in international expert and strategy development groups.

EU4OceanObs achievements 2020 – 2023

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