Q: Why is it important to revive ocean health?
A: The ocean plays several critical roles in our lives, which many of us aren’t even aware of. To start with, the ocean is responsible for 50 % of the oxygen on earth! As one of the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet, it captures somewhere between 25 % and 30 % of all human-made CO2 emissions, meaning the ocean is also a key ally in the fight against climate change.
The ocean also provides food and livelihoods for over three billion people. If we don’t take care of the ocean’s health, then all these critical components that we take for granted will be even more severely disrupted than they already are today with potentially catastrophic consequences for humanity.
Q: What are the major contributors to this crisis and how can it be eradicated?
A: Climate change and pollution arguably present the greatest threat to the ocean’s health. They upset the fragile balance of oceanic ecosystems and have huge consequences on weather, biodiversity, ocean circulation and coastal communities, to name a few. However, much of the ocean remains invisible and unknown to us. We know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than we do about the bottom of the ocean, as an example.
We need to give ocean science a massive boost not just to discover and understand these uncharted and unknown ocean realms, but also to develop solutions that allow us to responsibly develop ocean resources in support of a sustainable ocean economy. We also need a step change in our relationship with the ocean.
Simply put, the more we feel inspired by and connected to the ocean, the more we will want to take care of it. Science and technology can help us achieve that. This is the mission and vision of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development launched in 2021, of which Fugro is a partner.
Q: How can Geo-data help improve ocean health?
A: Geo-data is a fundamental building block for ocean science and for the sustainable solutions we must develop to address these serious threats including declining ocean health and climate change. From satellite remote sensing to vessel-based bathymetric surveying, to floating measurement buoys that live stream in-situ data, increasing the volume and accuracy of ocean Geo-data is essential to diagnose and understand ocean phenomena and improve our predictive capabilities.
This is key to the development of long-term sustainable solutions that we need to return to the clean, healthy, productive and resilient ocean we all want and need. Here again, the UN Ocean Decade, with the help of industry at large, will play a key role in providing equitable access to ocean Geo-data (also known as hydrospatial data) to achieve these goals.
We must all join forces – academia, government, private sector, NGOs and philanthropic organisations, etc. – to pool our ocean Geo-data and resources, increase our understanding of the ocean and restore its health!