On Tuesday 19th November 2019, MEP Catherine Chabaud (Renew Europe) and MEP Cláudia Monteiro De Aguiar (European People’s Party) hosted and chaired a conference co-organised with Mercator Ocean International: “Fostering knowledge on sustainable ocean: what benefits for the EU?”
There is a time to plan, a time to act, a time to check.
Our ocean is a common good of humanity. Its health depends on a sustainable use of its resources, as well as actions to protect and restore its ecosystems. In face of the many challenges ahead of us, there needs to be a global commitment to act now.
This was the rationale of the conference organised at the occasion of the launch of The Blue Book, ‘Copernicus for a sustainable ocean’ edited by Mercator Ocean International. The event, hosted by MEP Catherine Chabaud (France) and MEP Cláudia Monteiro De Aguiar (Portugal), aimed at exposing both the current challenges and pressure on oceans but also the promising solutions it offers, and to call for the European Union to act now.
Strongly committed to environmental and ocean-related challenges, Mrs Aguiar and Mrs Chabaud both welcomed The Blue Book as a way to celebrate a sustainable ocean. They insisted on the importance of strengthening ocean knowledge as well as specific actions on its preservation restoration, and of developing better international governance mechanisms.
The Blue Book and the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service: serving ocean preservation
The Blue Book, edited by Mercator Ocean International, intends to share and explain the importance and benefits of the Ocean Data and Information produced and disseminated by the Copernicus Marine Service of the European Union for a Healthy, Safe, Living and Powerful Ocean, to all European citizens, whatever their age, country or activity.
The Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service, also called Copernicus Marine Service, is an operational service of the Copernicus Programme, whose implementation and operation has been entrusted to Mercator Ocean International since November 2014.
Mauro Facchini, Head of the Copernicus Unit at the DG GROW (DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), shared with the audience the story and perspectives of the Copernicus Marine Service. Other key Copernicus stakeholders, including Josef Aschbacher, Director of Earth Observation Programmes, European Space Agency (ESA) or Paul Counet, Head of Strategy, Communication and International Relations, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), detailed the role of satellites for marine observation activities and in the frame of the Copernicus programme more specifically.
Pierre Bahurel, CEO of Mercator Ocean International, explained that the Copernicus Marine service currently delivers scientifically assessed ocean information to more than 20,000 subscribers and 200,000 non-subscriber users worldwide who require up-to-date and reliable ocean knowledge for their daily activities, be they related to science, policy, business, public services or education. The Blue Book ‘Copernicus for a sustainable ocean’ is full of testimonies from citizens from around the globe, business success stories, societal commitments, and visionary statements from major European and international stakeholders. The book is a narrative and testimony for accountability purposes, but also a legacy to the commitment of men and women from all walks of life and many member countries of the European Union. By striving for ocean advocacy, The Blue Book is also intended to enhance citizen and youth engagement, which is critical for raising ocean preservation at the highest political and societal levels.
Civil society, European institutions and research centers altogether to foster ocean knowledge
The presentation of The Blue Book and the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service was followed by talks and exchanges with ocean stakeholders who have been committed to changing EU Policies, fostering the Blue Economy or engaging citizens for numerous years:
- Sieglinde Gruber, Head of Unit, C.4. Healthy Oceans & Seas, DG RTD, European Commission
- Iain Shepherd, Senior Expert, A1. Maritime Innovation, Marine Knowledge and Innovation, DG MARE, European Commission
- Rémi Gruet, CEO, Ocean Energy Europe
- Tiago Pitta e Cunha, CEO, Oceano Azul Foundation
- Thomas Lesage, young ocean activist, founder of “Children for the Oceans”
- Françoise Gaill, Vice-President and President of the Scientific Committee, Ocean & Climate Platform
- Antidia Citores, Campaign Manager, Surfrider Foundation Europe
- Eudes Riblier, Chair, Institut français de la mer
- Stefanie Schmidt, International Relations Officer, B1. Ocean Governance, Law of the Sea, Arctic Policy, DG MARE, European Commission
- and Geneviève Pons, Director, Jacques Delors Institute Brussels for a talk dedicated to “Ocean knowledge & Policy: The challenges that lie ahead”
Calling European institutions to take action for ocean protection
Inspiring and powerful insights were shared by all speakers during the event, calling for further action from the European Union in favour of the ocean, and ultimately of all of us: more action, more engagement, more imagination and more knowledge of the Oceans.
Main recommendations made during the event were:
- Oceans should be high on the agenda of climate negotiations
- Oceans are a key player in climate mitigation
- Oceans need new strategies, and zero-Carbon emission objectives
- Oceans need new models of action: protecting oceans ecosystemic services through better conservation and restoration
- Oceans need new culture & mind-set
- Oceans are the responsibility of all
- Citizen Engagement can make the difference
- Oceans are a Common Good
- Ocean Knowledge is a Public Good
The European Union holds all the assets to lead a global momentum for a healthy and sustainable ocean. The “European Green Deal” is a top priority for the European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen and the Council of the European Union has just adopted conclusions on Oceans and Seas “calling on the EU and its Member States to continue using their international cooperation and development policies, to promote and build capacity for better ocean governance, conservation and restoration of biodiversity, reduce pressures, including cumulative pressures on oceans, and promote the development of sustainable blue economies and sustainable fisheries in cooperation with international organisations and other relevant partners and stakeholders.”
Whatever path they take, science-based ocean knowledge forms a critical and vital cornerstone of any ambitions for a sustainable ocean. Knowledge of the Ocean such as that delivered by the Copernicus Marine Service, which is immediately, openly and freely accessible to all,, is both a prerequisite and a pathway to appropriate policies, to achieving a sustainable, blue economy and to undertaking relevant blue innovation in society (education, ocean literacy, outreach, etc.).
Ocean knowledge is to be open to everyone, as well as being enhanced, improved, enriched and interconnected with different networks. This is Mercator Ocean International’s commitment for the Copernicus Marine Service for the years to come and the reason why the organisation is involved in the essential UN Decade of Ocean Science, piloted by IOC/UNESCO.
The event developed a momentum towards a new “Blue Society”, backed-up by a reliable, accessible and open ocean data. 2020 will be a very important year for the Ocean, with high level events such as, to name a few, the second UN Ocean Conference in Portugal in June, OurOcean Conference in the Palau Republic in August, the first EU International Ocean Governance Stakeholder forum, the preparatory work of Horizon Europe Mission: Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters and the international negotiations on marine biodiversity in the High seas. During the event, MEP Catherine Chabaud stated she is committed to bringing ocean protection at the top of the EU agenda: “as a former sailor who has been elected as a Member of the European Parliament, I am trying to bring some salt water into the European Parliament. Maritime ambition must percolate into the political agenda through a genuine European strategy, a “Green Blue Deal”, which would link the issues of knowledge, protection, and restoration of biodiversity, blue economy and governance.” This is the year to get moving, to act, to engage and to strengthen the chain from ocean knowledge to a sustainable ocean.