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Great Explorers support the Ocean Biogeographic Information System

Les Grands Explorateurs (The Great Explorers) and IOC-UNESCO’s Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) share a thirst for knowledge, to understand and preserve our planet’s unique, fragile beauty. Only a fraction of our ocean has been explored and much of it remains a mystery to us. New marine species are being discovered every day, with an average of 2,000 per year, while researchers estimate that only a quarter of all marine species have been identified and described so far. The Grands Explorateurs will support OBIS’ efforts in this exciting field with a donation of CAN$ 10,000, renewable as an annual grant over the next 5 years.

This Canadian institution has been sharing tales of great adventures and discoveries with a large audience for over 40 years, through conferences and films about the curiosity and courage needed to explore the unknown. OBIS is an unconventional explorer: it is an open, online database and tool on the biodiversity, geographic distribution and abundance of marine life.

The wealth and diversity of this marine life underpins healthy ecosystems and secures the provision of basic services, such as food and oxygen, upon which we all depend. OBIS contributes to the protection of marine ecosystems by helping to identify areas under threat and increasing the knowledge base to better manage and protect our ocean. As of October 2013, 37 million records of 1,374 datasets had been provided by nearly 500 institutions in 56 countries, making OBIS the greatest source of data on marine life and a precious resource for research. “The OBIS database continues to grow, thanks to the continued support from many partners and contributors around the world”, said Ward Appeltans, OBIS Coordinator. “We recently added 1.5 million records, and 1,000 new species for a total of 121,000 species.” Newly and yet to be discovered marine genetic materials also hold a great potential for an array of uses, including industrial and medical applications.

"I am very enthusiastic about the huge potential of OBIS in the development of marine science all over the world”, said Serge Martin, president of Les Grands Explorateurs. “Based on the incredible legacy of the decade-long Census of Marine Life, the OBIS global database will play a crucial role to protect biodiversity in oceans, assure food security, increase renewable energy and win the battle of climate change".

OBIS is very grateful for this support in these difficult times. Although the Member States of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) reconfirmed OBIS as one of IOC’s flagship programmes in their Assembly this past June, no solution has been found to secure its operations with the current budget constraints. Dr Bruno Danis, co-chair of the OBIS Steering Group, is hopeful: "This gesture may lead to a positive snowball effect!

Serge Martin is also president of Martin International and special advisor to the United Nations Foundation on Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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