Search By Topic


Urgent Need for an Action Plan for the Ocean

A new article published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science argues that there is an urgent need for an Action Plan for the Ocean. The authors propose the development of a risk-based framework to provide decision-makers with the tools needed to respond to future changes in the global ocean.   

A global pandemic has been predicted for some time and various plans were developed to guide policy responses to such an event. Over the last two years COVID-19 has surged across the world. Even with all the preparations made and the early warnings given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) we have seen the major challenges that have arisen in dealing with a truly global threat.

Even in the midst of the pandemic there are some important lessons for the environmental science community. Foremost, is that we must help plan and prepare now for the environmental changes that are already developing or may occur in the future. It is also clear that to be effective the plan must be internationally coherent and encompass different perspectives and stakeholders. A further lesson is that science can and should play a major role in informing decision-makers and the public about the potential threats and responses.

For the ocean science community those lessons are both timely as well as challenging. We know that the ocean is already changing and major changes are expected in the coming decades that will have global consequences (IPCC, 2019). There is, therefore, an urgent need to create an Action Plan for the Ocean, developing the systems for planning and responding to changes before they become reality and the consequences unmanageable.

The authors propose the development of an internationally coordinated process for generating an action plan across local, regional and global scales.  Risks need to be continuously assessed and ranked, options developed for responding to and mitigating risks and plans put in place so that as risks develop planned actions can be enacted. The Integrated Marine Biosphere Research project (IMBeR) has begun and will continue to develop inter- and transdisciplinary research and decision-making tools to progress such a risk-based approach. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is a major opportunity for creating the internationally coordinated network needed to secure the development of an Action Plan for the Ocean.

IPCC (2019). “Special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate,” eds H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, et al. (Geneva: IPCC). 

Read more:

Murphy, E.J., Robinson, C., Hobday, A.J., Newton, A., Glaser, M., Evans, K., Dickey-Collas, M., Brodie, S. and Gehlen, M. (2021). The Global Pandemic Has Shown We Need an Action Plan for the Ocean. Frontiers in Marine Science 8(1835). doi: 10.3389/fmars.2

Eugene Murphy and Carol Robinson