Brussels, 16 April 2015 – The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. today joined with Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Brussels, along with Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea, to announce the first trans-Atlantic mapping survey to take place under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.
The Irish research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer will undertake a mapping expedition between St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada and Galway in Ireland in June of this year, as scientists from the Marine Institute, Ireland will be joined by a multi-national team made up of USA, Canadian and European ocean mapping experts. This is an important step following the agreement reached at Galway in May 2013 and is an example of scientific diplomacy in action.
Speaking from Brussels, Minister Coveney said “Information from the sea-floor is vital to the sustainable management of the Atlantic as well as to important industries such as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. Ireland has developed a world-leading reputation for sea-bed mapping and is also very committed to the implementation of the Galway Statement and so I am delighted to put at the disposal of the team, Ireland’ state-of the art research vessel-RV Celtic Explorer.”
Commissioner Moedas stated “I am committed to harnessing the societal and economic value of our oceans, while protecting fragile marine ecosystems. Under Horizon 2020 we have invested just under €70 million to support the Galway Statement follow-up. The first calls delivered excellent project proposals involving international teams. I am glad that this investment is being leveraged to make our transatlantic vision a reality.”
Commissioner Vella welcomed the announcement, stating. “One of the priorities of my mandate is Ocean Governance. Our wish is that the EU continues to be fully engaged on this subject. The sea-bed mapping expedition announced today illustrates the EU’s capacity as a global leader and partner. The ‘Celtic Explorer’s’ mission across the north Atlantic will be undertaken by crew from ‘both sides of the pond’. This embodies the spirit of cooperation that we need in the field of Ocean Governance. Their work will help inform the mapping of the European seabed, which is set to be completed by 2020. I congratulate all those involved”.
Welcoming the initiative, the Honourable Gail Shea, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said “Canada recognizes the importance and complexity of Atlantic Ocean science. Our nations’ cooperation is key to broadening our scientific understanding of the Atlantic Ocean and helping to ensure it remains healthy, resilient and productive. This is why our scientists are collaborating through the Galway Statement to pool resources, share expertise and advance our science goals.”
The announcement was made at the European Commission hosted event, “The Atlantic- Our Shared resource. Making the Vision Reality, which was a follow up to the May 2013 signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation between the EU, Canada and the United States of America.
This event is the launch pad for all the Galway Statement follow-up projects funded with the first Horizon 2020 Blue Growth calls – the main financial instrument on the EU side implementing the Galway Statement commitments.
With a view to translating commitments into investments, the European Commission has earmarked around € 70 million in calls under Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation Programme for the period 2014-2015.
The Galway Statement – The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance
In May 2013, an Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America was launched in Galway, Ireland, with the high level signature of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.
The goals are to join forces to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources. Together we can build a capacity to understand and predict major Atlantic and Arctic processes, as well as the changes and risks they carry in relation to human activities and climate change.
The Galway Statement contributes to the implementation of the EU’s Atlantic Strategy and its related Atlantic Action Plan. The Action Plan considers responses to the challenges of delivering growth, reducing the carbon footprint, using the sea’s natural resources sustainably, responding effectively to threats and emergencies and implementing an “ecosystem” management approach in Atlantic waters.
The lead on the side of the Commission for the Ocean Research Alliance lies with DG RTD – the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, in close coordination with DG MARE -the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, which leads on the overall Atlantic Strategy.
Areas identified for cooperation under the agreement include:
- Ocean Stressors (e.g. ocean acidification)
- Interoperability and coordination of observing systems and infrastructures, including vessels
- Seabed and benthic habitat mapping
- Marine Microbial Ecology
- Ocean Literacy
A series of regular Stakeholder Meetings to operationalise the Galway Statement started in Brussels in April and June 2014 with high level participation from Europe, US and Canada, bringing together a variety of existing networks already active on both sides of the Atlantic. Other Stakeholder Meetings were organised in 2014 in Washington D.C. and Ottawa. In December 2014 the first seabed mapping event took place in Dublin (Ireland), which was followed by another meeting in February 2015 in Brussels.
The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance has been recognised as an example of how we can join efforts in research and innovation in the Joint Statement of the EU-US Summit on 26 March 2014, during President Obama’s visit to Brussels. Also, the importance of this initiative was acknowledged in the EU-Canada Summit Declaration from September 2014, as a contribution to the strategic partnership in the field of research and innovation.
Since the signature of the Galway Statement, the expansion of this cooperation to the Southern part of the Atlantic, particularly towards Brazil and South Africa, has been evoked regularly. Brazilian and South African partners have been invited to several Atlantic Ocean Alliance events.
The event ” The Atlantic – our Shared Resource: Making the Vision Reality” to launch research projects which constitute a clear follow-up of the Galway Statement and which were selected under the first Blue Growth call for proposals of Horizon 2020, takes place on 16-17 April 2015 in Brussels. Representatives from Brazil and South Africa are partners in some projects and will join representatives from Europe, the US and Canada in order to celebrate the translation of the political commitments taken in Galway into real investments which will boost the Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation initiative.