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Seas and oceans a 'grand challenge', scientists say


The seas and oceans are one of the 'grand challenges' for the 21st century, the European marine and maritime science community said in the Ostend Declaration. Researchers hope that the declaration will guide efforts to address the challenges facing Europe's seas in the coming decade and exploit the opportunities they present

December 1, 2010

Seas and oceans a 'grand challenge', scientists say
 
The seas and oceans are one of the 'grand challenges' for the 21st century, the European marine and maritime science community has said in the Ostend Declaration. The declaration was issued at the close of the EUROCEAN 2010 conference, which took place in the Belgian coastal town on 12 and 13 October.

The researchers hope that the declaration will guide efforts to address the challenges facing Europe's seas in the coming decade and exploit the opportunities they present.

Opening the declaration, the scientists highlight the role oceans play in the climate system and the importance of coasts, seas and oceans to our health and well-being as well as the impacts of global environmental change on the marine environment.

In addition, the declaration acknowledges the 'ongoing need for basic research' as well as 'the enormous opportunities for innovation, sustained wealth and job creation in new and existing maritime sectors such as aquaculture, renewable energy, marine biotechnology and maritime transport'.

The researchers call on the EU and Member States and Associated Countries to take three key actions to support marine and maritime research. The first involves the creation of the Joint Programming Initiative on 'healthy and productive seas and oceans' that would link up European and national research programmes on marine research.

Secondly, the researchers call for the establishment of a 'truly integrated and sustainably funded European Ocean Observing System'. Such as system would both support European marine and maritime policies and facilitate Europe's contribution to global observing systems.

Finally, the researchers highlight the need for mechanisms to ensure that research results are exploited and that gaps are identified. 'This should be supported by a repository for the reports and findings of national and EU marine and maritime research projects, programmes and initiatives,' the declaration reads.

'The role of the oceans in our global environment has yet to be fully appreciated; we need to collaborate across Europe in joint programmes as this task is too big for a single country,' said Lars Horn, chair of the Marine Board at the European Science Foundation (ESF). 'The Ostend Declaration calls for an integrated European Ocean Observing System that will respond to Europe's societal needs by supporting major policy initiatives.'

The declaration also underlines the importance of training and international cooperation in marine research. 'To be successful, the marine science community needs to share data, information and knowledge not only with its European neighbours but with the global science community - particularly in the developing world. Training the next generation of scientists will be crucial to maintaining the position European has in ocean science,' continued Mr Horn.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, welcomed the declaration, describing it as 'an impetus for new ideas to boost marine research to innovate and address the challenges represented by our seas and oceans'.

Speaking at the conference, Maria Damanaki, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, recognised the importance of research, saying: 'Building a maritime policy without strong maritime research is like building a sand castle when the tide is coming in.'

For his part, Mr Horn said: 'Across Europe, scientists are working together to ensure the potential health and wealth that could come from our seas and oceans. In return, there is a need to safeguard the future health of our seas too.'

EUROCEAN 2010 was organised by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, in collaboration with the European Commission and the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation (ESF).

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