1:00 pm 18 June 2012 — 2:30 pm 18 June 2012 at Pavilion Azul, Flamengo Park.

Our single global ocean is the Earth’s living, breathing support system for all life on our planet. We are now in an age where growing human consumption of natural resources exceeds the natural ability of Earth systems to renew and replenish. This is especially true in our oceans. The accelerating rate of physical change we are making to coastal regions, benthic environments, our atmosphere and the ocean itself, imposes additional stress that makes it even more difficult for the oceans to rebound.

The changing relationship with our oceans that is needed will be reflected primarily in the governmental policies that nations establish, the intergovernmental consensus agreed to and enforced by the world nations, civil society and private business.  However, in our own new age of austerity and reduced financial resources, the global government sector at all levels now struggles with supporting and extending scientific research, and no less so for ocean observations and science. And yet, this is a time when the very difficult task of moderating our impact on the ocean and its ecosystems is most critically dependent on a scientific understanding of its current state and how change is occurring.

There exist today critical scientific questions that bear directly on how we can adapt our relationship with the ocean to one of sustainability and measured use.  Baseline states of biodiversity; ecosystem structure and productivity; the impact of ocean acidification on food webs and coral reefs; the potential of marine protected areas in renewing wild fish stocks; the impacts of global warming on the tropical and small island regions, ecosystems and fisheries; the impact of a warming Arctic on marine ecosystems and fisheries; changes to the coupled ocean/atmosphere system and its influence on weather patterns – these are just a few.

The industrial and commercial private sector has a legacy in modern history of taking up the challenge of sponsoring scientific exploration – into the Arctic, the Antarctic, the deep sea – into the least understood regions of the Earth.  Today corporate philanthropy has become institutionalized as a force for societal good around the world. And for ocean observation and science, the commercial sector is again in a unique position to support ocean science, not only for the common good but in the interest of rational regulation and voluntary corporate strategies for environmentally sustainable management.

Commercial resources, both physical and financial, that can contribute to ocean science observation and research are present worldwide, and the international business community has always been ready to give back. What is needed today is greater coordination and cooperation between the science community, government and civil society, and commerce. This is beginning to happen at an accelerating rate and we need to support and solidify these efforts.

The IOC/UNESCO as an intergovernmental competent body in the area of ocean governance and science is well placed to catalyze this initiative.

This joint IOC/UNESCO – Global Oceans workshop will explore some ideas and examples of where global companies and supporting NGO’s are making a difference today, and where we can do more to support ocean research that will inform strategic and government policy leading to sustainable ocean management and governance.

Panel Participants:

Dr. Wendy Watson-Wright, Assistant Director General and Executive Secretary, UNESCO – IOC

Jim Costopulos, CEO, Global Oceans

Paul Holthus, World Ocean Council

Rodrigo Costa, GE Analytical Instruments

Romain Troublé, Secretary General, Tara Foundation