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Atlantic nations agree to form ocean research pact

Image: NOAA Ocean Exploration [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Pole-to-pole alliance will share knowledge and data, and promote ocean literacy

Leading economies bordering the Atlantic Ocean have signed an agreement to collaborate in ocean-related research and innovation, and called on others to join.

On 13 July leaders from Europe, Africa and the Americas agreed to form a “long-lasting” All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance to “share knowledge, infrastructure and capacity”.

The alliance will study the relationship between the ocean and the climate, monitor and protect marine ecosystems, tackle pollution, and support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. It will also coordinate ocean mapping and modelling efforts and promote “ocean literacy”.

Richard Spinrad, United States under secretary of commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, said the alliance should “set the example for what inclusive cross-sector science collaboration can and should look like".

“We in this room are only the start of the alliance efforts to come,” he said, adding that every Atlantic nation would be a welcome and valued participant.

The founding signatories are the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cabo Verde, Morocco, the United States and South Africa. Representatives of other nations, including the United Kingdom and Norway, attended the signing event.

Joint ambitions

The agreement does not create legal or financial obligations for the signatories. In statements made after the signing, participating countries nevertheless set out thow they hope to scale up ocean research and innovation, and how the alliance fits into these ambitions.

Adrián Nador from Argentina said the alliance would feed into his country’s ambitions to increase its R&D spend to 1 per cent of GDP by the year 2032. “Strengthening our national capacities in collaboration with international partners will be key to reach our goals,” he said.

Jennifer Littlejohn from the US called the declaration “an important step in ensuring our cooperation matches the scientific challenges that are facing us”.

Calling for more countries to join the alliance, she said “We must work together to ensure that the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance continues to develop and grow.”

“The US is committed to working toward an inclusive open process to expand the number of Atlantic nations that can formally join the Alliance as soon as possible,” she added.