Key takeaways from the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference

May 2, 2024

The 2024 Ocean Decade Conference, hosted by the Government of Spain, was a pivotal gathering to mark progress within the Ocean Decade community and set the course for the future of global ocean stewardship.

The event convened over 1,500 international leaders, policymakers, scientists, and advocates to address pressing ocean challenges, including climate change, food security, biodiversity management, and pollution. A delegation from OFI actively participated in the conference.

With a theme of delivering the science we need for the ocean we want, distinguished speakers such as Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, and H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, emphasized the need for collaborative action and innovative solutions for effective ocean governance.

Accelerating innovation and technology

A delegation from OFI participated in several satellite events to highlight the importance of accelerating innovation and technology readiness to meet the unique challenges of the Ocean Decade.

Led by our Chief Innovation Officer, Eric Siegel, OFI co-hosted a technology and innovation showcase. From startups to research labs, participants delivered rapid-fire pitches highlighting cutting-edge technologies and solutions aligned with Ocean Decade challenges. The pitches were followed by a panel discussion with funders, workforce development, and policy experts to discuss barriers to implementing new solutions.

Dr. Anya Waite, OFI's chief executive officer and scientific director, highlighted the institute's outreach efforts in bridging sectors and propelling innovations to meet the challenges of the Ocean Decade.

“The energy it takes to engage entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is enormous,” says Waite. “OFI’s outreach efforts have been impactful in communicating across multiple sectors and lifting innovations further to the global stage.”

Co-designing ocean observing systems

During a satellite event led by the Global Ocean Observing System, Dr. Waite and Ronnie Noonan-Birch, science and policy manager at OFI, presented a poster on the co-design process for an ocean carbon observation system. The discussion focused on how building a transformative and solutions-oriented ocean observing system is critical to the success of the Ocean Decade.

Ocean carbon is a key consideration in the design of this kind of system, to ensure we have the data needed to inform global climate policies and solutions.

Dr. Anya Waite and Ronnie Noonan-Birch at the 2024 Ocean Decade conference.

Ocean science diplomacy

Dr. Waite also participated as a panelist at a satellite event organized by the University of Bergen. The discussion focused on ocean science diplomacy and benefit sharing from natural resources, specifically marine genetic resources.

Meaningful Indigenous engagement

The conference featured participation from many Indigenous community members, such as Ken Paul, a member of the OFI Advisory Committee on Indigenous Engagement in Ocean Research (ACIEOR). Paul highlighted the importance of meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples.

“We need to recognize the value of Indigenous knowledge systems,” says Paul. “The knowledge is systematic, there is a method to it. When we say ‘traditional’ we do not mean ‘in the past’ but that the methods have value today.”

Advancing ocean literacy

Changing humanity’s relationship with the ocean is one of the Ocean Decade foundational challenges.

"As an ocean sector we often focus on problems and threats to the ocean rather than society,” says Diz Glithero, executive director of the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC). “But these problems are the outcome of human behaviour. The challenge we face is not an ocean problem or a science problem, but a people problem. Much of society needs a stronger connection with the ocean to improve our ability to achieve positive outcomes.”

COLC is helping to meet this challenge through their national and global initiatives. During the conference, Glithero led an inspiring conversation with key leaders in ocean literacy, strategic ocean communications, capacity development, and Indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage (including Ken Paul).

“Upscaling societal motivation and meaningful pathways for collaborative action are essential to transforming society's relationship with the ocean,” Glithero says.

As the new administrative home of COLC, OFI will support COLC’s design and delivery of key initiatives and transdisciplinary research to advance ocean literacy in Canada and globally.

Diz Glithero co-chaired a parallel session at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference focused on Challenge 10: Change humanity’s relationship with the ocean. Photo credit: Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition.

The Barcelona Statement

The launch of the Barcelona Statement was a key outcome of the event.

This landmark document contained recommendations to guide the Ocean Decade's future trajectory. Crafted through extensive collaboration, these recommendations signify a shared commitment to advancing global ocean science and sustainability for the next decade and beyond.

Priority areas in the Barcelona Statement include:

  • Encouraging sustainable, resilient, and equitable small-scall fisheries and aquaculture
  • Rapidly scaling up climate mitigation
  • Allowing timely understanding of the technical, ecological, social feasibility, and potential impacts of proposed mCDR initiatives
  • Informing knowledge drawn from transdisciplinary social science and ocean literacy research