Understanding the deep sea is key to a sustainable blue economy

EMB Policy Brief, No 2 November 2015, Delving DeeperThe European Marine Board (EMB) has called for major progress in deep-sea research to underpin future management and exploitation of living and non-living deep-sea resources during the 3rd Oceans of Tomorrow Conference hosted by the European Commission in Brussels recently.

The event highlighted the recommendations of the EMB position paper titled 'Delving Deeper: Critical challenges for 21st century deep-sea research.'

The paper explores the mismatch between the rising demand and capability to exploit deep-sea resources and the lack of scientific knowledge and regulatory frameworks to effectively manage this vast area, much of which falls in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Professor Jan Mees, Chair of the EMB said: "What is clear is that technology development and commercial interest is moving at a pace that outstrips the ocean governance discussions and the generation of new knowledge through scientific research. If commercial activities are to proceed, it is imperative that we develop a much greater knowledge and understanding of the deep sea."

Professor Alex Rogers, lead author and Chair of the working group explains: "The lack of baseline data for deep-sea ecosystems identified by the report has a direct bearing on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process....without continued efforts to produce basic underpinning science, regulation and governance of the deep sea will remain an exercise on paper rather than knowledge-driven decision making. Our results show that everyone recognizes the need for this from science to industry."

An overarching recommendation of the paper is that, to support Blue Growth, European public research funding investments should target fundamental scientific research of the full deep-sea system and the establishment of environmental baselines. Where possible, this should be done in a timeframe that will complement and keep track with industrial expansion in the deep sea.

Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute said "97 percent of the water on our planet resides in the ocean and everything we eat depends on it. More than 50 per cent of the oxygen we breathe is produced in the ocean. With such reliance on the ocean, it's essential to focus research efforts on better understanding it's vulnerabilities."

The event was attended by over 130 stakeholders, ranging from policy makers to academia, industry and NGOs. The EMB briefing event included interventions by Niall McDonough, Executive Secretary, EMB; Sigi Gruber, Head of Marine Resources Unit, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission; Ricardo Serrão Santos, Member of the European Parliament and Alex Rogers, EMB WG Deep Seas Chair, University of Oxford.

The European Marine Board represents 36 member organisations from 19 countries, including Irish members, the Marine Institute and the Irish Marine Universities Consortium.

For more information see www.marineboard.eu