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Future Earth Taipei Hosts the 2024 Ocean Action Symposium

On April 1st and 2nd, over 80 people from 10 countries gathered in Taitung, Taiwan for the 2024 Ocean Action Symposium, Future Earth Taipei Ocean Working Group’s annual event dedicated to ocean sustainability. Since 2021, the group has organized four Ocean Action Symposiums, focusing on themes such as blue carbon, fisheries, coastal management, and ocean conservation through engaging discussions with stakeholders from government, industry, and NGOs.

The Ocean Action Symposium serves as a platform to advance transdisciplinary research addressing issues impacting marine ecosystems and fostering actions with societal impacts. Panelists and participants from Taiwan, Japan, Seychelles initiated discussions on Marine  Protected Areas at the 2023 Ocean Action Symposium. This year, Ocean Knowledge Action Network International Project Office, Future Earth Taipei Ocean Working Group’s closest partner, brought researchers and stakeholders (including a traditional leader) from Hawaii, the Cook Islands, Colombia, and French Polynesia to continue expanding and diversifying discussions on ocean sustainability in the 2024 Ocean Action Symposium.

The Future Earth Taipei Ocean Working Group, in collaboration with Ocean KAN IPO and the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory, co-organized this symposium which featured four panels, including ocean resilience, OECM (Other effective area-based conservation measures), ocean culture, and ocean resources that were moderated by Future Earth Taipei Ocean Working Group’s members. The 13 panelists, representing diverse backgrounds, shared their direct experiences of living with or researching the ocean from both indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives. Additionally, we had the honor of hosting 6 speakers at the Round Table from the public sector: 

  • Dr. Wen-ling Hong, the Deputy Minister of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council 
  • Yu-lun Huang, Assistant Researcher of National Museum of Prehistory

Global & local research networks:

  • Dr. Linwood Pendleton, Executive Director of Ocean KAN IPO
  • Dr. Futuru Tsai, Professor of National Taitung University
  • Hideyuki Shiozawa, Senior Program Officer of Ocean Policy Research Institute at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation

And an NGO: 

  • Yu-Hsuan Yeh, Campaigner of Environmental Justice Foundation

They provided valuable insights into advancing actions to raise awareness for ocean sustainability. These actions necessitate collaboration among various stakeholders. For instance, participants highlighted the importance of co-creating educational avenues, such as eco-tourism, popular science talks, water sport activities in the ocean, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge-based exercise (e.g., fishing, open ocean voyaging) , which enable younger generations to learn about the marine ecosystem through direct experiences with the ocean. The direct experiences with the ocean are profoundly significant, as this type of physical connection often initiates emotional connections with the environment and also requires participants to gain scientific skills to understand tides, currents, meteorology and wave formation, ecology, and even celestial navigation. Yet, co-creating educational avenues requires financial and human resources as well as a platform to coordinate and execute projects of such nature. Encouraging more bottom-up initiatives to promote ocean sustainability is equally crucial, alongside urging the public sector to allocate resources for developing and integrating local initiatives.

The 2024 Ocean Action Symposium brought together Austronesian communities from Taiwan, Hawaii, Palau, the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia to highlight how Traditional and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge offers a valuable perspective for appreciating and protecting the ocean. Meanwhile, researchers and NGOs based in Taiwan also contributed useful insights which bridged research endeavors with local initiatives and proposed actionable steps. Their discussions underscored the importance of enhancing science communication across different disciplines, alongside with policy recommendations. Additionally, it’s vital to create platforms where the public, particularly school students, can readily understand concepts in marine science (e.g., What is the Kuroshio?) and the marine ecosystem (e.g., What is the Intertidal Zone? What species of whales and dolphins inhabit the waters around Taiwan?), serving as a foundation for advancing ocean sustainability.

Addressing the intricate theme of ocean sustainability demands further transdisciplinary dialogue for collaboratively shaping effective actions. Moreover, broader stakeholder engagement is necessary to enact these initiatives. At this symposium, researchers and stakeholders from Austronesian communities reached a conclusion: islanders should stand in solidarity to preserve the ocean that binds our shores.