On 24 May, the European Union, the United States and Canada agreed to join forces on Atlantic Ocean research. The agreement focuses on aligning the ocean observation efforts of the three partners. The goals are to better understand the Atlantic Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources. The work will also study the interplay of the Atlantic Ocean with the Arctic Ocean, particularly with regards to climate change. The EU and its Member States alone invest nearly two billion euro on marine and maritime research each year. The ‘Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation’ was signed today at a high level conference at the Irish Marine Institute in Galway. The Prime Minister of Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, attended the event (MEMO/13/455).
European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: “The enormous economic potential of the Atlantic remains largely untapped. We probably know more about the surface of the Moon and Mars than we do about the deep sea floor. This alliance can make a big contribution to meeting challenges such as climate change and food security.”
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, said: “Today’s agreement builds on the Atlantic Action Plan we put forward this month. While the initiative is of particular interest for the EU’s five Atlantic states, it is open to researchers from all over Europe and beyond. The knowledge gained will be of benefit to all.”
The agreement recognises that Atlantic research will in many areas be more effective if coordinated on a transatlantic basis. Areas identified for potential cooperation under the agreement include:
- Ocean observation
- Sharing of data, such as on temperature, salinity and acidity
- Interoperability and coordination of observing infrastructures, such as measurement buoys and research vessels
- Sustainable management of ocean resources
- Seabed and benthic habitat mapping
- Promoting researcher mobility
- Identifying and recommending future research priorities
In addition to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the launch event in Galway was attended by Simon Coveney, the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Kerri-Ann Jones, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Senator David Wells of Canada, who represented Edward Fast, Canadian Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway; Commissioners Damanaki and Geoghegan-Quinn; other representatives of the EU Atlantic Coastal States; and representatives from research and industry.
Since 2002, the European Union has invested over two billion euro in more than one thousand marine research projects. These include:
1. the €10 million, four year ice2sea project to forecast the impact that melting ice may have on sea levels along Europe’s coastline,
2. the €62 million MyOcean monitoring and forecasting projects, and
3. the €7 million, four-year Euro-Basin project to better understand the basin-scale processes impacting upon North Atlantic ecosystems from natural climate change to man-made pressures.
Through the EuroFleets projects , the EU is also working towards an alliance of European research fleets.
The Atlantic Action Plan (IP/13/420) put forward by the Commission on 13 May 2013 aims to revitalise the marine and maritime economy in the Atlantic Ocean area. It shows how the EU’s Atlantic Member States, their regions and the Commission can help create sustainable growth in coastal regions and drive forward the “blue economy”, while preserving the environmental and ecological stability of the Atlantic Ocean.
The EU’s current Marine and Maritime Research strategy was set out in 2008. It is built on the premise that science and technology provide one of the keys for reconciling promotion of sustainable economic growth in sea-based activities with environmental conservation.