New marine strategy highlights importance of an ocean in balance

SAMS director Professor Nicholas Owens

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In order to help safeguard the planet’s ocean environment, a leader in Scottish marine science has called for investment in research, technology and people, as he launched the Scottish Association for Marine Science’s (SAMS) new five-year strategy on Wednesday (July 29).

SAMS Director Prof Nicholas Owens says there has never been a more important time to support marine science research as Scotland develops its Blue Economy, a crucial part of the country’s recovery post-lockdown.

SAMS, Dunstaffnage, near Oban

A commitment to saving the oceans, Earth’s largest ecosystem, is embedded in the UN Sustainability Goals and, as we approach the UN’s Decade of the Oceans 2021-2030, Prof Owens said society had a responsibility to ensure the ocean was protected for the generations to come.

He said finding the right balance between using and protecting the ocean requires a greater understanding of the marine environment than we currently have.

‘It falls on the shoulders of the global marine science community to build the essential knowledge, skills and technologies that are missing,’ said Prof Owens. ‘Our strategy shows how we will direct our research, education and partnership working with governments, industry and the public to benefit both society and the natural world.

‘As the oldest marine research organisation in the United Kingdom we will empower our team of researchers to use their ingenuity in observing, understanding and predicting the changes in our ocean to develop new solutions to the problems of climate change, depletion of marine life, water pollution, waste, and food security. We will encourage them to develop environmentally advanced innovation and commercialisation products to benefit the Blue Economy.’

The global ocean is the most important component of Earth’s life support system and helps to stabilise the climate. However, it is seriously degraded and is under threat of ecosystem collapse from climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and overexploitation.

These stressors are caused by human activities and behaviour, and the demands for seafood, shipping, mineral resources, coastal development, energy, waste disposal and tourism are still growing. The need for marine conservation and economic development of marine industries can therefore be in conflict.

SAMS’ strategy seeks to find a sustainable middle ground, an ocean in balance, whereby the marine environment is protected, while meeting the needs of the population.

Prof Owens added: ‘I’m committed to a vision where one day our oceans will be fully healthy again, teeming with diverse and abundant marine life. I dream that this healthy ocean will also bestow on us clean energy, plentiful and good food, powerful medicines and global transport systems that will connect people and societies.’

The SAMS business model of research, education and enterprise is geared to generate new knowledge that informs policy makers about our ocean environment. It also allows the institute to disseminate these findings through teaching, as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, and to develop solutions and commercially useful products through its marine science consultancy, SAMS Research Services Ltd.

The SAMS strategy and a short video featuring Prof Owens can be viewed here: www.sams.ac.uk/strategy