Bringing the Ocean to Society
31 Oct 2018
The message is clear: no deep sea exploitation until we know more
A strong consensus on the need to learn much more about the deep sea before any type of exploitation takes place emerged during a recent EurOcean organised event.

Every year, in the Autumn, the entire EurOcean network gathers somewhere in Europe at the location of one of our Member organisations for our annual Steering Committee meeting. Usually we also organize together with our Members an event open to the public dedicated to a pertinent marine topic that relates with our three core activities: marine research infrastructures, marine knowledge management, and marine science communication and outreach.

This year’s meeting took place in Ponta Delgada in the beautiful Azorean island of São Miguel. Together with the meeting’s hosting Member, FRCT, we dedicated this year’s event to how we can ensure that results and knowledge gained in marine research can be used to inform policy making and the wider public. Given our location in the mid-Atlantic at the confluence between the American, European and African tectonic plates, we put a focus on deep-sea research.

The half-day event had a full-house with several generations of researchers, politicians, industry representatives and students, showing that there is a tremendous interest about marine science and, in particular, the deep-sea in the Azorean society.

The programme included an MEP, a Policy Officer from DG Research and Innovation, representatives from EMSO-ERIC and from the AIR Centre, as well as several representatives from the Regional Azorean Government and from the deep sea research community.

The speakers and panellists agreed that any exploitative activity in the deep sea (e.g. fisheries, oil and natural gas extraction, deep sea mining, dredging) will certainly have impacts on the underwater environment and associated wildlife. We just do not know the extent and consequences of such impact. Hence, there is also a common vision highlighting that currently the level of knowledge is not sufficient to, for example, evaluate the ability of the deep sea ecosystems to recover after a given disruption.

As Ned Dwyer, Executive-Director of EurOcean, stated “it is vital that the countries and the organisations invest in deep sea research in order to know what exists down there. Otherwise, the risk is that we start exploiting and end up destroying things we never even knew existed, and this would be tragic for our society”.

As a follow-up to the meeting, EurOcean intends to issue the “Ponta Delgada Statement” which will aim to highlight the outcomes of the workshop and will look to commit EurOcean and its Members to a set of actions that can be taken to ensure that the data and information collected on the deep sea can be converted into useful knowledge and guidance to direct policy decisions in relation to management of deep sea environments. Workshop participants and others will be invited to endorse this statement. Watch this space for updates!

You can look back on the presentations and discussions via our facebook page. A TV news about the event (in Portuguese) is available here (please advance to the 8:11 mark).

Earlier in 2018, EurOcean also organized two workshops (in the Azores and in Lisbon) on how Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) can support the decision-making process about deep-sea mining. We gathered a wide range of stakeholders who agreed that there are a number of questions to be answered before deciding to explore minerals in the bottom of the sea. One of the top priorities emerging from those events deals with the role that the circular economy can have in reducing the need to access new sources of raw materials. Both workshops took place within the framework of the MARINA project, the only H2020 initiative exclusively dedicated to implement RRI in marine matters, and the results are available in the project’s online Knowledge Sharing Platform, which you are invited to join.