Working Groups

Working Groups

Working Groups are now being set up for each of the Decade’s Societal Outcomes. These meetings will set out to identify the needs of the Southern Ocean community in view of addressing the Southern Ocean priorities identified through the survey. The input from each Working Group will be synthesised into a Draft Southern Ocean Action Plan, which will then be jointly consulted by all stakeholders at the 2nd Southern Ocean Regional Workshop. This workshop will be held online from 20-22 September 2021 and will bring forward a community consensus on how the Southern Ocean community will engage within the Ocean Decade Framework. Following the 2nd Southern Ocean Regional Workshop, the Task Force will review and finalize the Southern Ocean Action Plan.

Working group 1: How to achieve – A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified, reduced or removed

Society generates a vast range of pollutants and contaminants including marine debris, plastic, excess nutrients, anthropogenic underwater noise, hazardous chemicals, organic toxins, and heavy metals. These pollutants and contaminants derive from a wide variety of land and sea based sources, including point and non-point sources. The resulting pollution is unsustainable for the ocean and jeopardises ecosystems, human health, and livelihoods. It will be critical to fill urgent knowledge gaps and generate priority interdisciplinary and co-produced knowledge on the causes and sources of pollution and its effects on ecosystems and human health. This knowledge will underpin solutions co-designed by multiple stakeholders to eliminate pollution at the source, mitigate harmful activities, remove pollutants from the ocean, and support the transition of society into a circular economy.

Working group 2: How to achieve – A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are understood and managed

Degradation of marine ecosystems is accelerating due to unsustainable activities on land and in the ocean. To sustainably manage, protect or restore marine and coastal ecosystems, priority knowledge gaps of ecosystems, and their reactions to multiple stressors, need to be filled. This is particularly true where multiple human stressors interact with climate change, including acidification and temperature increase. Such knowledge is important to develop tools to implement management frameworks that build resilience, recognise thresholds and avoid ecological tipping points, and thus ensure ecosystem functioning and continued delivery of ecosystem services for the health and wellbeing of society and the planet as a whole.

Working group 3: How to achieve – A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy

The ocean is the foundation for future global economic development and human health and wellbeing, including food security and secure livelihoods for hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people. Knowledge and tools to support the recovery of wild fish stocks, deploy sustainable fisheries management practices, and support the sustainable expansion of aquaculture, while protecting essential biodiversity and ecosystems, will be essential. The ocean also provides essential; goods and services to a wide range of established and emerging industries including extractive industries, energy, tourism, transport and pharmaceutical industries. Each of these sectors has specific, priority needs in terms of increased knowledge, and support to innovation, technological development and decision support tools to minimise risk, avoid lasting harm, and optimise their contribution to the development of a sustainable ocean economy. Governments also require information and tools, for example via national accounts that incorporate ocean indicators, to guide development of sustainable ocean economies and promote marine sectors.

Working group 4: How to achieve – A predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions

The vast volume of the ocean is neither adequately mapped nor observed, nor is it fully understood. Exploration and understanding of key elements of the changing ocean including its physical, chemical and biological components and interactions with the atmosphere and cryosphere are essential, particularly under a changing climate. Such knowledge is required from the land-sea interface along the world’s coasts to the open ocean and from the surface to the deep ocean seabed. It needs to include past, current and future ocean conditions. More relevant and integrated understanding and accurate prediction of ocean ecosystems and their responses and interactions will underpin the implementation of ocean management that is dynamic and adaptive to a changing environment and changing uses of the ocean.

Working group 5: How to achieve – A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards

Hydro-meteorological, geophysical, biological and human induced hazards create devastating, cascading and unsustainable impacts for coastal communities, ocean users, ecosystems, and economies. The changing frequency and/or intensity of weather- and climate- related hazards is exacerbating these risks. Mechanisms and processes for assessing priority risks, mitigating, forecasting and warning of these hazards and formulating adaptive responses are required to reduce short- and longer-term risks on land and at sea. Higher density ocean data and improved forecast systems – including those related to sea level, marine weather and climate are needed from near real time through decadal scales. When these enhancements are linked to education, outreach, and communication, they will empower policy and decision-making, and they will mainstream individual and community resilience.

Working group 6: How to achieve – An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation

Inequalities in ocean science capacity and capabilities need to be eradicated through simultaneously improving access to and quality control of data, knowledge, and technology. This needs to be coupled with increased skills and opportunities to engage in data collection, knowledge generation and technological development, particularly in LDCs, SIDS and LLDCs. Increased dissemination of quality controlled and relevant ocean knowledge to the scientific community, governments, educators, business and industry, and the public through relevant and accessible products will improve management, innovation and decision-making contributing to societal goals of sustainable development.

Working group 7: How to achieve – An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development

In order to incite behaviour, change and ensure the effectiveness of solutions developed under the Decade there needs to be a step change in society’s relationship with the ocean. This can be achieved through ocean literacy approaches, formal and informal educational and awareness raising tools, and through measures to ensure equitable physical access to the ocean. Together these approaches will build a significantly broader understanding of the economic, social, and cultural values of the ocean by society and the plurality of roles that it plays to underpin health, wellbeing and sustainable development. This outcome will highlight the ocean as a place of wonder and inspiration, thus also influencing the next generation of scientists, policy makers, government officials, managers and innovators.

Cross-cutting themes

During the Southern Ocean process, multiple priorities and challenges for progress towards achieving the Ocean Decade’s vision were identified. Some of these are not unique to the Southern Ocean while some were considered as being cross-cutting in nature when considered by the Working Groups. This is because the Societal Outcomes of the Ocean Decade are all closely connected.

Access to data and infrastructure (Outcome 6) is essential to successfully understand the current and future states of the Southern Ocean (Outcomes 2 and 4). Achieving these will allow informed decisions to be made in view of attaining a clean (Outcome 1), resilient (Outcome 2), and sustainably productive ocean (Outcome 3), all of which will ensure a safe ocean where fewer extreme events occur (Outcome 5) and where forecast systems allow for timely responses (Outcome 4). The success of all the above will steer the transition to the sustainable development of ocean activities by inciting behaviour change, engagement and innovation (Outcome 7), which will in turn influence the next generation to invest in ocean science.