(Ireland; 16 February 2015) A featured item on the agenda at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose, California was “The Atlantic Ocean: Our Unknown Treasure.” 

The event was held Saturday, 14 Feb. 2015 and included Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute, Ireland. hewas joined by European Commission officials and leading scientists from the USA, Europe and Canada to discuss how to explore the largely unknown Atlantic Ocean; how new technologies can help to challenge our limited understanding of the planet; and how new observation and visualisation tools can improve what we know about the seabed and inform science to expand our knowledge and help shape future marine policy.

This event builds on the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation signed at the Marine Institute, Ireland in May 2013 by representatives from the EU, Canada and the US. With that agreement they launched the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance. Its goals are to better understand the Atlantic and the Arctic, to study the interplay between them, particularly relating to climate change, and to promote sustainable management of their resources.

Speaking about the event, Heffernan said, “It’s an exciting time, as all sides–European, American, and Canadian–have shown engagement, planning and committment to driving the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance forward and preparing joint actions. There are very real global challenges to be tackled, and there is strong momentum now to create significant benefits such as better ecosystem assessments and forecasts and deeper understandings of vulnerabilities and risks.”

Heffernan went on to say that transatlantic collaborations will also help to generate new tools to “increase resilience and adaptation and to conserve our rich biodiversity.” Heffernan pointed out that public understanding must be fostered for how ocean science and observation can “address pressing issues for citizens and for the environment.”

The AAAS meeting gave Hefferbnan ans his colleagues from the EU an opportunity to see some of the collaborations that are undertaken in the Atlantic Ocean and discuss challenges for future research, technological developments, mapping and imaging and research cooperation across the Atlantic.”