The future of the ocean to be decided through ocean research

Taking stock of progress and discoveries in global ocean research, and defining a roadmap for the years to come. Such is the ambition of the 2nd International Ocean Research Conference that opened in Barcelona (Spain) on 17 November.

In the 10 years since the 1st International Ocean Research Conference, organized at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, our knowledge of the ocean has improved at an unprecedented rate. “At that time we were starting to hear about ocean acidification, microplastics, hypoxia, and other emerging issues that have since then established solid roots” recalled Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO during the opening. For instance, ocean acidification was the focus of over 500 scientific papers published in 2013– only 24 had been published on the same topic in 2004.

"Since 2002, many important new discoveries were made in ocean science, and new challenges were identified" confirmed Mike Roman, President of the Oceanography Society.

Given the considerable challenges facing society as a whole today, such as excessive pressures on fish stocks and coastal areas, declining biodiversity, rising sea levels or impacts of ocean acidification on corals, researchers cannot stand aside from society’s immediate concerns.    

"Scientists have a responsibility to go beyond the discovery of knowledge but also to engage with society, share knowledge widely, focus on societies' greatest needs" insisted Jane Lubchenco, who was Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA) until 2013.

This social contract is the essence of the Conference, which has gathered more than 600 scientists from around the world until 21 November, bringing experts of the highest levels together with students and young researchers. The conference is itself the result of an encounter between two worlds that seldom overlap: science and sport. It is organized by IOC-UNESCO, The Oceanography Society and the Fundacio Navegacio Oceanica Barcelona, creator of the Barcelona World Race (BWR).

During the round the world, two-crew, non-stop sailboat Barcelona World Race, which will kick off in Barcelona on 31 December, skippers will contribute to scientific endeavors by deploying Argo floats and measuring surface temperatures, salinity and plastic pollution in little-traveled waters.

"This engagement of the Barcelona World Race with the scientific community is an excellent example of success story" praised Luis Valdés, of IOC-UNESCO.

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