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Five Years Of The Galway Statement On Atlantic Ocean Co-Operation

31st May 2018
The signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation on 24 May 2013 The signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation on 24 May 2013 Photo: Andrew Downes

#MarineScience - Five years ago this month, the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation was signed and the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) between the European Union, Canada and the United States of America formed.

In the time since, the AORA has already been recognised as a success story in the Atlantic area, highlighting international best practices, and promoting the key priorities of the European Union’s Atlantic Strategy and Atlantic Action Plan, embodied in the Galway Statement and its potential support to the Blue Economy.

Today there are more than 500 research teams working in the Atlantic Ocean. Transatlantic co-operation has been embedded and embraced at the heart of the scientific teams working together in Atlantic-wide field campaigns on seabed mapping, ocean observation, seafood, weather, climate and polar research, marine biotechnology and marine spatial planning.

The Galway Statement has also provided the first step in all-Atlantic co-operation, leading to the signing of the Belém Statement on Atlantic Research & Innovation Cooperation between the European Union, South Africa and Brazil. An all-Atlantic research community is also being built.

New transatlantic institutional structures have been formed, including an Ocean Frontier Institute in Canada which includes European and US partners.

Speaking about the achievements to date, Dr Margaret Rae, director of AORA co-ordination and support action at the Marine Institute, said: “AORA is using the latest technology to map the Atlantic, making groundbreaking discoveries like previously uncharted undersea volcanoes and mountains, circulation patterns, and more.

“Our coordinated efforts are helping to create a blueprint for the next generation of ocean observation. And there’s still much to uncover, from new sources of energy and food to lifesaving medicines found in unexpected sources.

“By learning all we can about our oceans, we can create a world with better navigation, weather prediction, smarter search and rescue, health, and a thriving seafood industry that will feed generations to come.”

Transatlantic research teams with Horizon 2020 funding have unearthed new discoveries and knowledge:

Seabed Mapping
- Completed seven opportunistic transatlantic surveys by Irish, Canadian, French and Fugro vessels, resulting in discoveries of uncharted seamounts kilometres high, deep sea volcanoes, and ridges some hundreds of kilometres in length.
- Developed a collaborative model for industry, research and government to promote Atlantic seabed mapping and open data.
- Encouraged private sector participation for public good, resulting in Fugro contributing more than 65,000 sq km of high resolution data. Fugro maps the seabed while transiting between offshore projects.

Ocean Observation
- Completed an analysis of Atlantic-wide observation system capacities/gaps.
- For the first time a team has formed to develop a blueprint for an Atlantic-wide integrated ocean observing system with wide Atlantic participation.

Atlantic Ecosystems
- Co-ordinated expeditions to map deep-sea Atlantic ecosystems and advanced knowledge of key species, ecosystems and processes.
- Discovered modern Atlantic Ocean circulation which is atypical of the longer term.
- Deployed new sensors in eastern subpolar North Atlantic to enable key advancements in understanding of ocean physics interactions.
- Provided scientific evidence that temperature change, acidification, fisheries and their cumulative effects pose the greatest risks to ecosystem services.
- Successfully tested a generic Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) framework to assess spatially managed areas (SMAs) across the North Atlantic.

- For the first time, climate vulnerability assessments of North Atlantic fish and shellfish, including the human communities dependent on these have been rigorously compared across the EU, US & Canada – strengthening scientific cooperation and building better forecasts.
- Made the first steps to use marine algae to build ‘blue belts’ for carbon/nitrogen sequestration and sustainable aquaculture.

Ocean Education
- Developed a transatlantic ocean literacy strategy and a range of new ocean educational materials (videos, teaching modules, infographics).

Weather, Climate & Polar Research
- Worked together to study Arctic warming impacts, ecosystem productivity and ocean-climate dynamics to give new understanding to local populations.
- Facilitated co-operative understanding of the impact of a changing Arctic on weather and climate across the northern hemisphere.
- Worked with public and private users of climate information to help them incorporate uncertain scientific evidence into real-world decision-making processes.

For more information see

Published in Marine Science
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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