The Southern Ocean Process

How is the Plan being developed ?

Based on the recommendations in the global Ocean Decade implementation plan, the Southern Ocean Community engaged in a stakeholder-oriented process to develop the Southern Ocean Action Plan. 

Coordinated by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Southern Ocean Task Force launched a series of workshops & meetings to identify key research priorities for the Southern Ocean – the first of which was held in February 2020 in San Diego (USA). The full report of this first workshop can be found here

During the spring of 2021, the Southern Ocean Task Force conducted an extensive desk study to collect information from partner’s implementation plans, as well as previous polar and Antarctic initiatives, including the SCAR Horizon Scan, the Antarctic Roadmap Challenges led by the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP), and the outputs of the EU-PolarNet consortium. This desk study generated a review of identified strategic and scientific priorities for the Southern Ocean, published in May 2021. 

The next step consisted in engaging stakeholders in an open survey to gather insights on the review. Participants provided input on the activities and contributions that should be developed in the context of the Decade. Working Groups were set up for each of the Decade Outcomes. Each Working Group is chaired by key experts from academia, government or industry, with working group participation open to all interested parties to ensure the broadest representation. Southern Ocean challenges and ensuing actions were identified to develop concrete strategies. The input from each Working Group was synthesized into separate Working Group reports which served as a basis for the Southern Ocean Action Plan. 

The process culminated in the organisation of the Second Southern Ocean Regional Workshop during the Southern Ocean Decade & Polar Data Forum Week 2021 (20 – 24 September 2021), which aimed to communicate on the development process of the Southern Ocean Action Plan and to seek further engagement from diverse stakeholders. This week-long event gathered 400+ participants and combined a conference style meeting in support of knowledge exchange, with a public consultation approach to identify the needs of the Southern Ocean community to overcome the challenges related to the unique conditions of working in the Southern Ocean. Through this community-driven effort, Working Groups – each dedicated to one of the UN Ocean Decade’s Societal Outcomes – gathered valuable input on what needs to be improved and developed for the Southern Ocean stakeholders to achieve the ocean we want in the Southern Ocean region. By identifying synergies within the Southern Ocean community and beyond, the Southern Ocean Task Force was in position to elaborate an Action Plan that provides a framework for Southern Ocean stakeholders to formulate and develop tangible actions and deliverables for the Decade. Furthermore, the workshop shed light on the cross-cutting nature of constraints affecting the management of the Southern Ocean, such as (i) the lack of coordinated research facilities, (ii) limited access to data, infrastructure, and resources, and (iii) the scarcity of effective mechanisms for collaborations between different sectors (academia, government, industry, etc.) and the resulting mismatch between the needs of society and research interests and outputs. 

Following the publication of the Southern Ocean Action Plan, the Southern Ocean Task Force encourages the Southern Ocean community to find inspiration and seek engagement to deliver innovative solutions to maintain the unique conditions of the Southern Ocean. This framework aims to provide an initial roadmap to strengthen links between science, industry, and policy, as well as to encourage internationally collaborative activities in order to tighten knowledge and data gaps.

The development process of the Southern Ocean Action Plan engaged a broad community spanning the scientific research community, industry, infrastructure (National Antarctic Programs, logistics coordinators), policy and management, operational service providers and Antarctic scientific and policy governing bodies. This inclusive approach is a key pillar of the Southern Ocean contribution to the UN Ocean Decade, and will be prioritised throughout its implementation.