GEOMAR advocates for strong marine protection at UN Ocean Conference 2022

Highlighting the importance of marine research for mitigating man-made climate change – this was the main focus of scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel at the UN Ocean Conference, which took place in Lisbon from June 27 to July 1, 2022. The international conference served to network different expertises on the protection and sustainable use of the ocean.
“The ocean has arrived on the political agenda, and we welcome that,” affirms Katja Matthes, Director of GEOMAR, who attended the conference as a representative of the German delegation. “At the UN Ocean Conference, this was demonstrated once again. By now, everyone has understood that acting for the ocean also means acting for the climate. Even the German government’s ocean strategy contains many points that link the ocean and the climate. We can make a meaningful contribution to that with our expertise,” Matthes continued.
Two topics that GEOMAR plays a major role in were the focal points of the event – digital, model-based images of the ocean, so-called digital ocean twins, and the need for a sustainable ocean observing system were at the top of the conference agenda.
GEOMAR is leading two major projects on both topics: The Digital Twins of the Ocean (DITTO) project enables users to answer questions about ocean conservation, ocean management, and a sustainable economy for the real twin based on shared data, models, and knowledge.
The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) is coordinated by GEOMAR in a leading position in the steering committee. In addition, an official side event on ocean observing was organized in Lisbon by GEOMAR with various cooperation partners.
During the side event, the need for global ocean observations was intensively discussed. Senior scientists from four major ocean research institutions (GEOMAR; Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, SIO; National Oceanography Centre, NOC; Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer, IFREMER) took this special opportunity to jointly discuss how the research centers can collaborate with their competencies to address the need for a sustainable ocean observing system based on continuous information flows. In doing so, the institutions wanted to send a strong signal of collaboration at the international level.
“These conferences are important to keep reminding everyone how fundamental the ocean is to all life on this planet,” says Professor Dr. Martin Visbeck, head of physical oceanography at GEOMAR, program coordinator of Project DITTO, and member of the board of the German Ocean Decade Committee. “Progress has already been made this year in establishing marine protected areas. The link between ocean, climate and biodiversity has also gained more visibility. This is a good start. Above all, marine conservation must be thought of globally, because country borders do not exist in the ocean for most problems. Our collaboration with Cape Verde is a strong example of such cooperation.” GEOMAR has been operating the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo (OSCM) together with the National Marine Institute of Cape Verde (Instituto do Mar, IMar) since November 2017. This cooperation was further strengthened at the UN Ocean Conference.
“The open ocean, that is, the area beyond national jurisdiction, unfortunately does not yet have a strong voice at the conference,” criticizes Dr. Toste Tanhua, chemical oceanographer at GEOMAR and co-chair of GOOS. “This area covers about 50 percent of the Earth. Nevertheless, I have the impression that its relevance always falls under the table as soon as it comes to binding commitments. This is an important point for the next conference. But many of us had the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and friends from around the world, to talk with them about solutions to current societal challenges, and to take those solutions to the next levels of decision-making. I hope to see more of our work in the near future.”
GEOMAR has already been contributing to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, proclaimed by the United Nations for the years 2021 to 2030, since last year with, among others, the DITTO project and the collaboration with the Climate Competence Center WASCAL in West Africa. These two projects are officially recognized as part of the Ocean Decade.
Background info
Scientists in Lisbon and focal points:

Katja Matthes; Director GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, member of the German delegation Martin Visbeck; Member of the Board of the German Ocean Decade Committee, Digital Twins of the Ocean Project (DITTO) David Keller; The Carbon Dioxide Removal Model Intercomparison Project (CDR-MIP), project for CO2 Removal by increasing alkalinity in the ocean (RETAKE), Blue Carbon for CO2 Removal Project (sea4soCiety), Ocean-based Negative Emission Technologies (OceanNETs), Björn Fiedler; Shared management of the Ocean Decade Project: West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), Cape Verde Graduate School of Climate Change and Marine Sciences. Toste Tanhua; Co-chair of the project Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), Coordinator of the EU program EuroSEA Rebecca Zitoun; Early Career Ocean Professional Network, (ECOP), Ocean Literacy With All (OLWA), Young Ambassadors Program (European Marine Board, EMB)


More about the UN Ocean Conference