|Press release 2010-09-10|
Press release & Press Invitation
by the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation (MB-ESF); in cooperation with the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)
Europe’s future lies in the oceans
Ostend, 10 September 2010
With a 89,000 km long coastline, Europe is a maritime continent which derives huge societal benefits from its seas and oceans. Coastal regions host almost half the population of EU countries with a sea border. To consolidate and reinforce the sustainable use of its marine waters and to meet the grand challenges and opportunities of the future, Europe has developed holistic policies, including the Integrated Maritime Policy and its environmental pillar, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. To support the implementation of these policies Europe will need to invest more in marine research and technology. The Ostend Declaration, a statement that will be prepared and discussed by Europe’s marine science experts and policy makers at the occasion of the high-level EurOCEAN 2010 Conference in Ostend (12-13 October 2010), will outline the research and policy needs for the next decade.
More than 50% of Europe’s territory consists of seas and oceans. Half of the global oxygen production is derived from ocean phytoplankton and oceans are the main drivers of the Earth’s climate. On top of that, many growing economic sectors rely on the seas for transport, extraction of living and non-living resources, energy-supply, tourism, etc. Only with a substantial amount of high-quality research and technology will Europe be able to cope with the growing pressures on our seas and oceans, and to take advantage of the opportunities they present in a sustainable way.
According to Maria Damanaki (EU-Commissioner for Maritime Affairs & Fisheries): “It is increasingly clear that maritime policy has very wide implications and a real potential to fuel sustained recovery and growth across Europe and the world. Our goal has to be to create jobs and to foster growth in an environmentally friendly manner”.
European marine waters are already affected by climate change. Two thirds of the commercial fish stocks in the North sea have moved northwards over the last 25 years. “As a result of climate change and ocean acidification one thing is certain: in 50 to 100 years time, our marine ecosystems are going to be very different from those we know today… the scary thing is, we do not know how different” (Professor Michael Thorndyke, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences). This is also very much the case for our knowledge of marine microorganisms, which we now know play a critical role in regulating the cycle of carbon and nutrients in the oceans, but remain largely unstudied. Marine observations and data are now more essential than ever for monitoring the rate and scale of environmental change. There are clear economic benefits: it is estimated that a 25% reduction in uncertainty in future sea-level rise will save 100 million EUR annually in European coastal defences.
Marine biotechnology: food security, environmental and human health
Europe is a major consumer and the world’s number three importer of fishery and aquaculture products. The annual output of the European fish processing industry amounts to 23 billion EUR, or three times that of the catch sector. Whereas globally marine and inland aquaculture production is quickly catching up with capture fisheries (now representing about 50% of the food-fish production), EU aquaculture production is much more static at a level of 1.3 million tonnes of fish, shellfish and crustaceans, generating a turnover of 3.2 billion EUR and supporting 65,000 jobs. “It seems we have the knowledge and tools to manage fisheries sustainably, but this will help the rising demand for seafood only to a limited extent. Better knowledge on how to develop sustainable aquaculture of marine organisms is needed to help feed a growing world population”, states Dr. Ole Arve Misund (Institute of Marine Research, Bergen).
The oceans and seas have a high potential for discovery of bioactive compounds, given the rich and unique marine biodiversity. More than fifteen such compounds from marine organisms are currently in clinical development for novel drugs and several marine-derived drugs and nutraceuticals are already on the market, mainly for the treatment of cancers.
Future health issues can also arise from eutrophication with land-borne nutrients. Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) events have increased over the past decades along the European coasts, leading to an increase of related illnesses and economic losses in the fisheries and aquaculture sector with a total estimated cost to the EU of more than 627 million EUR/year. True interdisciplinary approaches will be required to address further economic and environmental degradation.
The same conflict between growth and increasing demand and sustainability holds for the maritime transport sector. Today, almost 90% of external freight trade in the EU is carried by the seas, and around 3,500 million metric tonnes of cargo and 350 million passengers pass through Europe’s ports each year. However, this growing sector produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and sulphur oxides, representing 4.5% of global emissions. Here too, research and technology could be a significant drivers towards the development of safe, sustainable and efficient waterborne transport operations, of crashworthy vessels, with low emissions and enhanced maritime security.
Energy & marine spatial planning
By 2050, 15% of European electricity could be provided by wave, tidal, thermal and osmotic resources. On top of that, offshore wind power will avoid the emission of 100 Mt of CO2 by 2020. The installation of these new devices requires, among other things, careful marine spatial planning (MSP). However, “While the advantages of MSP become rapidly acknowledged, few recognize the shortcomings of current MSP initiatives. Research will need to focus on the fact that the latter are not set up to allow and adequately measure the performance of management actions, and that little research is already available on how to apply MSP in areas beyond national jurisdiction, an area that covers 45% of the globe”, says Dr. Fanny Douvere (Coordinator of the World Heritage Marine Programme, UNESCO, Paris).
Experts call upon Europe to urgently build a marine observation network that “with a free access to real-time data will generate revenue for business and government, new products, and a leading role for European research and development” (Prof. Peter Haugan, Director Geophysical Institute, Bergen). They highlight the need for more research and knowledge on the deep-sea and its sub-seafloor. “Europe should play a leading role in addressing issues of sustainable ocean management and explore some of the deep-seated geological processes that drive seafloor ecosystems and resources” (Prof. Achim Kopf, MARUM Research Centre, Bremen). “The backside of the moon is still better known than the 70% of our planet which is covered by oceans. In order to meet the challenges of the next decade, major investments in marine science and technology are necessary. The future of the oceans is the future of mankind” (Prof. Peter Herzig, director Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences IFM-Geomar).
The top priorities for marine and maritime research will be summarised in ’Navigating the Future IV’, a position paper that will be published by the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation (ESF) in Autumn of 2011. The content of this visionary position paper will be discussed by Europe’s leading experts at the occasion of the EurOCEAN 2010 Conference in Ostend (12-13 October 2010). Top-speakers will present a state-of-the-art overview of the major topics and will shed light on what Europe needs for its “blue future”. The EurOCEAN 2010 Conference will build upon the tradition of earlier EurOCEAN conferences in Galway (2004) and Aberdeen (2007), and will bring together leading European scientists, European, national and regional policy makers, marine science programmes and representatives of a wide spectrum of marine and maritime stakeholders.
The Conference will be attended by two EU Commissioners: Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU-Commissioner for Research & Innovation, and Maria Damanaki, EU-Commissioner for Maritime Affairs & Fisheries.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (EU-Commissioner for Research & Innovation), who will present a closing keynote speech summarises the importance of marine science and technology: “Overfishing, pollution and the effects of climate change have dramatically affected the marine environment, putting fragile ecosystems at great risk. Sea level rise, coastal erosion and extreme events threaten our coasts. However, with focused research and innovation, we can address these challenges and maximise the potential of our natural resources”.
EurOCEAN 2010 (www.eurocean2010.eu) is a Belgian EU Presidency event, organised in close cooperation with the European Commission and the Marine Board-ESF.
Journalists will have the opportunity to ask questions at a press conference on the first day of the conference.
The following high-level speakers will be present at the press conference:
Press Conference schedule & venue:
10:40-11:10 – in room “Boudewijn” of the Thermae Palace Hotel, Ostend, Belgium
Some HR-pictures of ocean science are made available (free use when credits quoted correctly)
Press release as pdf:Press release in English