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Sustained Collaboration Key to Ocean Health

Black Clown Fish

Black Clown fish. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Despite serious threats to the oceans as a result of human activities, IAEA environmental expert David Osborn says he's optimistic about the future.

"It's easy to become despondent about threats like pollution, overfishing and ocean acidification. But I have great faith in the international community. I have faith in the capacity of our Member States to actively address the problems facing our oceans," says Osborn, who is the Director of the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco and Seibersdorf, Austria. "The key to success is informed, targeted and sustained collaboration. Only by working together do we have the power to protect the ocean."

One of the IAEA's most significant areas for enhanced collaboration in marine affairs is ocean acidification (OA), which occurs as oceans absorb the rising quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When dissolved, the carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid, creating a more acidic environment, which can threaten marine ecosystems.

The Agency helps its Member States address the problem by funding and conducting research on the effects of OA on marine life, ecosystems and coastal environments.

"If Member States are armed with the correct information about the changes occurring at a broad level and at an individual species and ecosystem level, and about the changes occurring in the short and long term, they have the capacity to put in place the policy reforms and legislation needed to address these challenges.

"Because of the work that the IAEA and the global scientific community are undertaking to provide governments and policymakers with these key answers, I am positive about the oceans. I'm concerned, but I'm also positive at the same time," says Osborn.

The IAEA actively seeks to foster cooperation among Member States, international entities, and private organisations, as well as build partnerships that will address the issue of OA.

In this vein, the IAEA launched the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre in 2012 to support activities in the field, as well as facilitate, promote and communicate global actions on ocean acidification. It serves the needs of not only the scientific community, but policymakers, universities, media and the general public.

The Centre is overseen by an Advisory Board consisting of representatives from leading institutions, including the U.N. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco, the OA-Reference User Group, as well as leading scientists and economists in the field.

The IAEA's activities also include promoting discussion that can lead to action.

Last year's Scientific Forum, held on the margins of the 57th IAEA General Conference, brought together scientists, experts and policymakers from different fields to initiate dialogue about the protection and preservation of ecological balance, which is vital for the survival of coastal regions and the marine environment.


- By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication

(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)