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Topic: UN Ocean Decade 2021–2030

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Photo: Left to right: Greg Rosenke, Sebastian Pena Lambarri, Random Institute / Unsplash

Sustainable development is impossible without a healthy and productive ocean. That’s why the UN has proclaimed 2021-2030 the Decade of Ocean Science.

The aim of the Decade of Ocean Science is to generate new scientific knowledge to help improve our management of the ocean and coast throughout the world. That will be essential if we want to enjoy and use the ocean both now and in the future.

The ocean covers most of the surface of our planet, and billions of people the world over depend on the ocean for their food, health, work, transport, recreation, natural resources and many other things. With a growing population and increasing pressure on land areas, the ocean will only become more important.

By ensuring a clean and productive ocean, we can create a better future for the whole planet. In order to do that, we need to understand the ocean and how best to make use of it.

Why a Decade of Ocean Science?

On 5 December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The decision reflected a growing realisation of the ocean’s importance to the future of our planet. 

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has been tasked with developing and supervising the plans for the decade in partnership with the member states and other international agencies.

The vision for the Decade of Ocean Science is “The science we need for the ocean we want”. The IOC has defined six expected societal outcomes of the Decade:

  1. A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and removed
  2. A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are mapped and protected
  3. A predictable ocean where society has the capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions
  4. A safe ocean where people are protected from ocean hazards
  5. A sustainably harvested ocean ensuring the provision of food supply
  6. A transparent ocean with open access to data, information and technologies
  7. An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean

Read more: The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (oceandecade.org)

How can the ocean support sustainable development?

The Decade of Ocean Science will help us to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals are set to be attained by 2030 and aim for both social, economic and environmental sustainability.

SDG 14 is about life below water: protecting and using the ocean and marine resources in a way that promotes sustainable development. But the ocean and ocean science will also be vital to reaching the other goals.

Food from the ocean can play a big role in the battle to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition (SDG 2). This requires knowledge about fish stocks, nutritional content and contaminants. Here the Decade of Ocean Science is linked to the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.

Ocean science and ocean management gives countries more control over their own resources. In doing that, it also promotes peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).

Offshore wind and other kinds of marine renewable energy can help to provide clean energy for all (SDG 7) and combat climate change (SDG 13). However, this requires knowledge of the effects on marine life and other industries.

Furthermore, the experiences that the ocean provides us with promote good health and well-being for many people (SDG 3).

How will Norway and the IMR contribute?

Norway has more marine scientists per capita than any other country in the world, and is one of the largest contributors to the Decade of Ocean Science. Prime minister Erna Solberg has been named Patron of the Ocean Decade Alliance.

The Institute of Marine Research is one of the biggest marine research institutions in Europe, with over one thousand employees working in disciplines ranging from oceanography through ecology to human nutrition. The institute will contribute to putting the goals of the Decade of Ocean Science into practice both nationally and internationally. The Decade will be at the heart of the IMR’s work over the coming years.

The Research Council of Norway has been tasked with coordinating and supervising Norway’s involvement in the Decade of Ocean Science. An expert committee led by the IMR's Peter Haugan launched a plan focusing on ten areas that are particularly important to Norway, as well as ones where Norway’s expertise is valuable to the international community. Read more about them here.

Norway supports ocean science and fisheries management in developing countries through Norad. The IMR participates in initiatives like the EAF-Nansen Programme, operates RV Dr. Fridtjof Nansen in partnership with Norad and the FAO, and has bilateral cooperations with multiple countries.

Round the world with Statsraad Lehmkuhl

As a contribution to the Decade of Ocean Science, Statsraad Lehmkuhl is setting out on a round-the-world trip that will last also almost two years. The “One Ocean Expedition” will cover 55,000 nautical miles and call at 36 international ports in order to put the spotlight on sustainability and marine research.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl sets sail from Arendal in august 2021. Image: Statsraad Lehmkuhl

The barque training vessel will be specially equipped with scientific equipment and it will collect data from the ocean throughout its voyage.

The IMR is leading work on the scientific programme, which will focus on areas such as climate change, biodiversity, fisheries, marine debris, sound pollution and ocean acidification.

There are six participating research and education institutions, including the IMR, as well as partners from the private sector and the political sphere. The IMR is responsible for the leg from Havana to New York in December 2021.