Less than 5% of the ocean is comprehensively monitored. Much of the current data comes from countries, universities and research institutions, with NGOs and the private sector collecting and producing data on the ocean; only a small percentage of this is open data. Too often policymakers, business leaders and analysts cannot access the data they need to make informed decisions about the environment and human well-being. To build a sustainable ocean economy, ocean data needs to be better monitored, communicated and accessible to all.

The project ‘Strengthening the Ocean Economy’ provides the tools to create a more integrated approach to monitoring ocean health and trends. Its current reports and upcoming data platform aim to help governments and businesses commit to and begin implementing policies, programs and investments that advance the transition to the Blue Economy (sustainable ocean economy). 

This project has four components:

Component 1: Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy

This project has contributed to the research and writing of the Ocean Panel's landmark report, Ocean Solutions That Benefit People, Nature & the Economy. The report, launched in December 2020 and written by SYSTEMIQ and the Ocean Panel Expert Group co-chairs, sets out a new ocean narrative.

The report is the culmination of 19 previously commissioned Blue Papers and lays an ambitious and feasible action agenda that governments and businesses can adopt to help achieve a sustainable ocean economy where protection, production and prosperity go hand in hand; people have more opportunities and better health; and nature thrives and resources are distributed more equitably. It focuses on the urgent need for action and a roadmap on how to attain a sustainable ocean economy by 2050. 

Another Ocean Panel-commissioned publication, Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, was released alongside this report and is endorsed by 14 Ocean Panel Heads of State and Government. The publication calls for international action under five main pillars – ocean wealth, ocean health, ocean equity, ocean knowledge and ocean finance. 

Component 2: Blue Papers substantiating ‘Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy’ recommendations

A series of 16 Blue Papers and special reports were commissioned by the Ocean Panel to form a comprehensive assessment of ocean science and knowledge. These reports will help shape policy, are a part of efforts to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and provide value to the UN Decade of Ocean Science.

The Blue Papers explore some of the most pressing challenges at the nexus of the ocean and the economy; they are independent from and do not represent the thinking of the Ocean Panel. A diverse group of 250 experts representing 48 countries from the Ocean Panel Expert Group — 44% of whom are women — conducted the research for these papers. 

The GEF funding has supported four Blue Papers covering a variety of subjects, including Ocean-Based Renewable Energy & Deep Seabed Minerals, the Human Relationship with Our Ocean, Ocean Finance and Coastal Development.

Many of the Blue Papers have been adapted and released in the science journal Nature and some of its sister journals, including Challenges to the Sustainability of Deep-Seabed Mining.

This body of work has also informed the Ocean Panel’s deliberations and new ocean action agenda — anchored by a headline commitment from the 14 countries to sustainably manage 100% of their national waters

Component 3: ‘Ocean Watch’ beta — online monitoring system to support monitoring of impacts of policies and practices

Launching in the autumn of 2021, Ocean Watch, an open data platform for the global ocean, will provide support for greater integration of data into marine planning. This platform will provide the data, analyses, and visualizations needed to support work in the spatial and integrated management of the ocean. 

Ocean Watch is specifically aimed at supporting national planning entities in the integrated and spatial management of the ocean. Building upon existing datasets, Ocean Watch will provide an integrated source of ocean data, uniting ocean sectors and ensuring holistic ocean management. Potential users and stakeholders’ feedback and priorities will guide the platform’s development and data collection.

This project has also contributed to the development of the interactive Global Coral Reef Profile, which provides consolidated, map-based information and indicators on the value of coral reefs, the threats they are facing, what factors promote reefs resilience as well as the Coral Reef Data Hub, which includes 30 global data sets relevant to coral reefs. Further description and a request for feedback on the profile can be found on the International Core Reef Initiative.

Component 4: Knowledge management and sharing

Through tailored communications and outreach strategies, this project ensures that the outputs and knowledge products from all three components are shared widely to ensure maximum impact and visibility. Outreach is coupled with public awareness campaigns and planned activities, including, but not limited to, op-eds, blogs, podcasts, videos and social media toolkits. 

The project will also disseminate its knowledge products and stories via IW:LEARN, liaise with members of the IW:LEARN community and take part in IW conferences.

Inception Workshop

The Inception Workshop, held in October 2020, introduced the project to a wider audience by presenting the activities under each Component. It was also an opportunity to discuss Component 3, Ocean Watch, in more detail with potential end-users, and for the team to explore the specific data needs and challenges these ocean professionals face. This user needs group has continued to be engaged since the workshop, and their priorities have been taken into account during the development of the Ocean Watch platform.

Following the workshop, the Inception Report was created to support the Project Document as a key resource in guiding the project implementation process for each of the 4 components. It collates information on the project description and progress to date, outlines the main outputs within each of the components well as going into further detail on the workplan and budget.

This project supports various ocean products, including: 


Photo Credit: Knut Troim on Unsplash.