How data can heal our oceans

Nishan Degnarain and Steve Adler at WEF: “We have collected more data on our oceans in the past two years than in the history of the planet.

There has been a proliferation of remote and near sensors above, on, and beneath the oceans. New low-cost micro satellites ring the earth and can record what happens below daily. Thousands of tidal buoys follow currents transmitting ocean temperature, salinity, acidity and current speed every minute. Undersea autonomous drones photograph and map the continental shelf and seabed, explore deep sea volcanic vents, and can help discover mineral and rare earth deposits.

The volume, diversity and frequency of data is increasing as the cost of sensors fall, new low-cost satellites are launched, and an emerging drone sector begins to offer new insights into our oceans. In addition, new processing capabilities are enhancing the value we receive from such data on the biological, physical and chemical properties of our oceans.

Yet it is not enough.

We need much more data at higher frequency, quality, and variety to understand our oceans to the degree we already understand the land. Less than 5% of the oceans are comprehensively monitored. We need more data collection capacity to unlock the sustainable development potential of the oceans and protect critical ecosystems.

More data from satellites will help identify illegal fishing activity, track plastic pollution, and detect whales and prevent vessel collisions. More data will help speed the placement of offshore wind and tide farms, improve vessel telematics, develop smart aquaculture, protect urban coastal zones, and enhance coastal tourism.

Unlocking the ocean data market

But we’re not there yet.

This new wave of data innovation is constrained by inadequate data supply, demand, and governance. The supply of existing ocean data is locked by paper records, old formats, proprietary archives, inadequate infrastructure, and scarce ocean data skills and capacity.

The market for ocean observation is driven by science and science isn’t adequately funded.

To unlock future commercial potential, new financing mechanisms are needed to create market demand that will stimulate greater investments in new ocean data collection, innovation and capacity.

Efforts such as the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure have gone some way to raise awareness and create demand for such ocean-related climate risk data.

Much data that is produced is collected by nations, universities and research organizations, NGO’s, and the private sector, but only a small percentage is Open Data and widely available.

Data creates more value when it is widely utilized and well governed. Helping organize to improve data infrastructure, quality, integrity, and availability is a requirement for achieving new ocean data-driven business models and markets. New Ocean Data Governance models, standards, platforms, and skills are urgently needed to stimulate new market demand for innovation and sustainable development….(More)”.