A major report published today looking at the future of the sea sets out the opportunities available for the UK to capitalise on its existing strengths in research, technology and the diversity of ocean industries. The report also calls for a global response to the threats to the worlds oceans, and warns in particular of the threats of plastic pollution.
The Foresight Future of the Sea report, published by the UK’s Government Office for Science identifies four major areas that can deliver opportunities for the UK by exploiting its science and innovation – an improved understanding of the sea, greater co-ordination, a long-term approach to decision making and the increasing global nature of the challenges we face.
Autonomous vessels, robotics and other emerging technologies are creating a new generation of economic activity and are highlighted as an area to focus on. They will allow researchers to observe and map previously unexplored areas of the sea and improve our understanding of the marine environment. The increase in potential from autonomous vehicles means that areas such as data transfer, sensing, communication technology and improved data transfer between autonomous vehicles and satellites, will be of growing importance across the marine economy.
Professor Gideon Henderson, a member of the expert advisory group to the report comments: “This Foresight report is extremely timely. Societies around the world use the oceans for food, transport, and recreation, and rely on their influence on climate, uptake of carbon dioxide, and creation of the oxygen we breathe. It is increasingly clear that the oceans are vulnerable to change caused by humans: pollution such as plastics, over fishing, changes caused by global warming. But also that they have much more to offer us; wind, wave, and tidal power, and potential resources we are only just beginning to understand such as unusual genes for new drug development.”
Global concern about the future of the ocean environment, and the need for international cooperation on issues in the areas beyond national jurisdiction, is leading to new cooperation between nations, including an explicit ocean focus in discussions at recent G7 meetings.
“The UK has played a leading role in exploring and researching the seas for centuries, and continues to have world-leading research capabilities at universities such as Oxford, and at UK marine institutes,” added Professor Henderson. “The central call of this report, for a more a joined up approach across the UK government on marine issues, is welcome. Co-ordination is essential to guide future UK policy in this area, to ensure we continue to benefit from the oceans in new and sustainable ways, and protect this critical global environment.”
The report can be read on the Government Office for Science website.