Strathclyde leading £20 million programme aimed at tackling threats to the world’s oceans

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From plastic pollution to rising sea levels and acidification to over-fishing, the threats facing our oceans are well-known.

Now the University of Strathclyde is to lead an ambitious £20 million programme – the UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub – aimed at transforming the global response to these urgent challenges.

The Hub will bring together the competing interests and agendas of the individuals, communities and organisations that rely on our oceans to realise a vision of an integrated and sustainable approach to conservation and sustainable use.

A key priority will be to ensure the knowledge, experiences and rights of those most-reliant upon the oceans, and disproportionately affected by our failure to protect them, are recognised.

The team will set out to uncover the less tangible values of the ocean, and the hidden ‘trade-offs’ in ocean decision-making.

The goal is to ensure decision-making at multiple levels (local to international) is based on evidence of risks and opportunities among competing ocean uses.

The five-year programme is being funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund and will involve more than 50 partners, including world-leading research centres, development organisations, community representatives, governments and multiple UN agencies.

Programme lead, Professor Elisa Morgera, Director of the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance with the Law School, said: “Millions of people all over the world are entirely reliant upon the ocean for food, jobs and transport yet over-exploitation, competing uses, pollution and climate change are pushing ocean ecosystems towards a tipping point.

“The One Ocean Hub will bridge the current disconnects across law, science and society to empower local communities, woman and the young – who are particularly impacted by decision-making – to co-develop research and solutions.

“The aim is to predict, harness and share equitably environmental, socioeconomic and cultural benefits from ocean conservation and sustainable use.

“The Hub will also identify hidden trade-offs between more easily monetized fishing or mining activities and less-understood values of the ocean’s deep cultural role, function in the carbon cycle, and potential in medical innovation.”

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde said: “This is a hugely-important research programme that seeks to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our time.

“I’m delighted and proud that the University of Strathclyde is leading this consortium. We have a proven track record of collaboration with partners from across multiple sectors to make a positive impact on global communities, and also helping to progress the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Science and Universities Minister Chris Skidmore, said: “The UK has a reputation for globally influential research and innovation, and is at the centre of a web of global collaboration – showing that science has no borders.

“We have a strong history of partnering with other countries – over 50% of UK authored research involves collaborations with international partners.

“The projects being announced today reinforce our commitment to enhance the UK’s excellence in innovation at home and around the world, driving high-skilled jobs, economic growth and productivity as part of the modern Industrial Strategy.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI Champion for International and Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), said: “The sheer scale and ambition of these Hubs is what makes them so exciting. They enable us to deliver a coordinated global response with UK researchers working in partnership with researchers, governments, NGOs, community groups and international agencies across developing countries.

“Each Hub has the potential to transform the quality of life for multitudes throughout the world and safeguard our planet for future generations.”

Within the initial five years of the programme, the team hopes to advance an integrated and inclusive approach to ocean management at a national level in South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Fiji and the Solomon Islands that enhances the resilience of marine ecosystems and of vulnerable groups.

Dr Ann Cheryl, Vice Dean Learning and Teaching, University of the South Pacific, said: “We are delighted to work collaboratively across disciplines with other committed organisations towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Hub will provide support in complex issues at national and regional level within a respectful partnership, and will help secure the health and wellbeing of the ocean and vulnerable communities for generations to come.”

Professor Morgera said: “Our aspiration is that decisions on the ocean will be informed by multiple values and knowledge systems and that the rights and worldviews of communities, women and youth will be recognised, valued and realised.”

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

The One Ocean Hub will help to support the UK’s international commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans.