Policy Brief ‘Nourishing Blue Economy and Sharing Ocean Knowledge’

Recommendations for Sustainable Ocean Observation and Management

JERICO-S3 participates as one of ten Horizon 2020-supported Blue Growth EU projects to form the strong cluster ‘Nourishing Blue Economy and Sharing Ocean Knowledge’. The 10 innovative projects aim to build ocean observation systems that provide input for evidence-based management of the ocean and the Blue Economy.

Led by the EuroSea project, the group published a joint policy brief listing 5 key recommendations for sustainable ocean observation and management. The cooperation is supported by the EU Horizon Results Booster and enables the group to achieve a higher societal impact. The policy brief was presented to the European Commission on 15 October 2021.

The Ocean covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and plays a critical role in providing the air we breathe and the freshwater we drink. The ocean makes our planet habitable as a primary controller of the global climate system. The Ocean is the pathway for 90% of global trade and provides a wealth of resources supporting human livelihoods, with enormous economic impact. Investors are increasingly looking towards the ocean for economic opportunities.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projections suggest that the Blue Economy, evaluated as 2.5% of the world economic value of goods and services produced, is expanding rapidly. By 2030, ocean industries have the potential to double in size (seabed mining, shipping, fishing, tourism, renewable energy systems and aquaculture will intensify). Ocean industries are outperforming the global economy as a whole and making an important contribution to Blue Growth and employment.

To address the future challenges of sustainable ocean development there is a need to develop a framework for a more in-depth understanding of marine ecosystems. Ocean observations must be reliable, timely and fit-for-purpose and link to the design and implementation of evidence-based management decisions.

By joining forces, the 10 projects jointly strive to achieve goals set out in the EU Green Deal, the Paris Agreement (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the United Nations 2021-2030 Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Ocean Development.

The 5 key policy recommendations are:

1. Create a European Policy Framework for Scientific Ocean Observations Long-term Funding – The need to better coordinate and support ocean observing and ocean information delivery efforts across Europe. In response to this, continued observations and improved biological understanding are both needed to assess oceanographic change and its ecological implications. This needs to be seen as research infrastructure, which requires more sustainable and adequate funding to support a growing blue economy through monitoring efforts.

2. Support the Professionalisation of the Next Generation of ‘Blue Staff’ – The Blue Digital Transformation requires new skills and competencies, educational programs and knowledge, which will increase employability in the marine sector, both in academia and industry sectors, while the sector better exploits the value of the ocean in a sustainable way.

3. Transform Data into Knowledge by Investing in IT Observations – Thanks to the combination of different technologies, which collect different kinds of data (e.g. microbiome, plastics, ocean circulation), it will be possible to fill in different gaps in knowledge and understanding of the Blue Sector dynamics in terms of ecology, biodiversity, sensitivity to climate change and the potential for sustainable exploitation of ocean resources.

4. Define Global Standards and Interoperability Practices – The oceanographic community is already developing data interoperability but a more formalised standard framework is required. To achieve this, a change in culture is the only way to propagate the use of standards and best practices.

5. Strengthening Citizen Science for Policy, Equitable Access, Democratisation and Critical Data Contributions – By actively supporting citizen science initiatives, policymakers are able to open up and democratise marine observation science, thus, co-creating a new type of self-driven, sustainable and cost-efficient observatory concept. It is recommended that policymakers should join efforts to create a new generation of evidence-based national, European and transcontinental (All Atlantic) public policies.

These projects have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 (H2020) Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreements: EuroSea 862626; AtlantECO 862923; Blue-Cloud 862409; EU-Atlas 678760; Eurofleets+ 824077; iAtlantic 818123; Jerico-S3 871153; Mission Atlantic 862428; Nautilos 101000825; ODYSSEA 727277.

23th summer of concerted observation and communication of cyanobacterial blooms

Blooms of cyanobacteria occur practically every summer in the Baltic Sea, covering large areas of the sea during July-August, and having a substantial influence on ecosystem and marine services. That is why Finnish Environment Institute SYKE has published an extensive, weekly overview of cyanobacterial occurrence in Finnish inland waters and sea areas already since 1998.

The overview is based on monitoring of the state of the environment in collaboration between SYKE and several local authorities. The activity of some organizations has also significantly increased the number of observation points for cyanobacterial blooms, especially on the SW and S coasts of Finland. Today, the national cyanobacterial bloom monitoring network includes > 400 permanent observation sites around the country in, coastal areas, the archipelago, and inland waters.

The basic water monitoring is linked with bloom observations from satellites and, on the sea level, the Research Vessel Aranda and the Finnish Border Guard. The JERICO RI Gulf of Finland Pilot Supersite, especially the  Alg@line ferrybox systems and the Utö Atmospheric and Marine Research Station – is essential in deriving high-frequency and real-time observations during the whole life cycle of the bloom. Real-time data of seawater surface temperature is provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute FMI. SYKE and FMI together produce forecasts on drifting of cyanobacterial surface occurrences based on winds and currents.

Citizen science is an important element in the monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms. Individual citizens have been able to participate in the monitoring by sending their observations to an online service.  Finally, communications on the cyanobacterial situation are always facilitated by fruitful collaboration between researchers and the media.

Summer 2021 was unusual

Summary of cyanobacterial observations recorded in the Lake-Seawiki online service during June–August and of the summer surface algae areas interpreted on the basis of satellite observations. Cyanobacteria observations: Lake-Seawiki online service, national cyanobacterial monitoring and SYKE satellite observations. © Contains modified Copernicus data, SYKE (2021)

The blooms are primarily influenced by the availability of inorganic phosphorus and favoured by warm and calm weather (which we holiday-makers like too).

This year was different from the usual: despite the surplus phosphate after the spring bloom, extensive and long-lasting surface occurrences of cyanobacteria did not form in the Finnish offshore areas, except occasionally in the central Gulf of Bothnia. The amount of cyanobacteria in the Finnish coasts slightly peaked in mid-July due to the warm weather, but strong winds mixed the cyanobacteria in the water column soon afterwards. The biomasses were further reduced by a long-lasting upwelling of cold water to the surface.

The seawater has been unusually clear in many areas. Whether that is an anomaly or an indication of the improved state of the coastal waters, remains to be seen. 

Data from high-frequency, (near) real-time observations can be seen in the links below: Cyanobacterial species composition, biomass and pigments were observed at the Utö Atmospheric and Marine Research Station, and the data are shown in the links below:

Phytoplankton species composition, measured with the FlowCytoBot imaging flow cytometer: http://swell.fmi.fi/Uto/ifcb/index.html

Cyanobacterial biomass: https://swell.fmi.fi/hab-info/graphs_biomass_1d.html

Phytoplankton pigment composition: https://swell.fmi.fi/hab-info/graphs_phytosturb_92d.html

Satellite observations in the TARKKA online service: www.syke.fi/tarkka/en

Alg@line ferrybox monitoring on merchant ships: https://www.marinefinland.fi/en-US/The_Baltic_Sea_now/Automatic_observations_from_ships

Team: Sirpa Lehtinen, Harri Kuosa, Jenni Attila, Jukka Seppälä, Kristiina Vuorio, Hanna Alasalmi

About the JERICO-S3 Pilot Supersites

JERICO-S3 will provide regionalised innovative monitoring and science strategies at 4 Pilot Supersites in The Gulf of Finland, the North-western Mediterranean, The North Sea and the English Channel and the Cretan Sea.

The Pilot Supersites (PSSs) will be established and tested during a short implementation period (January 2021 to August 2022) to demonstrate how transnationally and trans-institutionally integrated multidisciplinary and multiplatform observations add value to our ability to answer the multiple key scientific and social challenges that the coastal ocean is facing.

Photo credit: The Finnish Coast Guard during its surveillance flight.