Aarhus University Seal

Ocean Decade begins with a plan for ocean research in the Arctic

The world's oceans will receive special attention in the coming decade. UN launches UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, 2021-2030. The Danish Center for Marine Research (DCMR), which has a secretariat at DTU Aqua, launches the decade with the contribution Artic Action Plan which will be published at the kick-off conference for the UN Ocean Decade June 1 2021.

International co-financing of ongoing observation and research programs, improved communication and data sharing, better stakeholder collaboration, enhanced focus on the interaction between ecosystems, natural resources and fisheriesthese are some of the areas of action that the Arctic Action Plan identifies as crucial to delivering solutions that enable sustainable development across the Arctic in the coming decade.

With this plan, the Danish Center for Marine Research (DCMR), which has a secretariat at DTU Aqua and is a collaboration between all Danish marine research institutions including observers from Greenland and Faroe Islands, has contributed to deliver the first regional strategy as part of UN's large, global plan for the world's oceans. 

The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will be kick-started with an international conference today in Berlin with speeches from, among others, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

DCMR has developed the Arctic strategy with the help of more than 300 contributors from industry and the world of science, governments, NGOs and representatives of local and indigenous communities in the Arctic. This was done through a series of online working groups and consultations in 2020-21.

Here, participants discussed their different perspectives on what practical barriers and scientific challenges need to be overcome on the way to achieving sustainable development and science-based solutions in the Arctic.

Download Arctic Action Plan

Denmark's role in the UN's decade for ocean research

DTU Aqua and DCMR's other member institutions hope that the Ocean Decade will strengthen the political focus and research collaboration both across the Kingdom of Denmark and internationally. Therefore, it was natural that DCMR took the lead in the work of developing the decade's first bid for a strategy related to the Arctic sea areas, which are important for both Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

"The sea binds the Kingdom of Denmark together from the Baltic Sea to the Arctic Ocean. Throughout our history, the sea has had a major impact on our economic and cultural development. It has driven Danish marine research over the last 100 years and has resulted in Danish marine research being strong and internationally recognized. The decade has great potential to ensure that this continues in the future", says professor at DTU Aqua and Center Manager for DCMR, Colin Stedmon.

Chair of the DCMR and Professor and leader of the Sustainability Science Centre at University of Copenhagen, Katherine Richardson, says:

"The need for marine research in the Arctic has never been greater as many are now looking towards the Arctic oceans to supply resources for continued human development. At the same time that we are looking towards the Arctic to meet our resource demands, this region is the hardest hit by climate change. This means that nature and biodiversity in Arctic regions are under enormous pressure. With our current level of knowledge concerning Arctic marine ecosystems, we are not even capable of doing proper environmental assessments of the activities that are being planned there!"

The research we need for the ocean we want

The purpose of the Arctic plan is to identify what it will take to achieve the goals that the UN has for the Ocean Decadein the Arctic. These ambitions for a societal development have been formulated by the UN under the heading The Science We Need For The Ocean We Want:

  • A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified, reduced or removed.
  • A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are understood, safeguarded and managed.
  • A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy.
  • A predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions.
  • A safe ocean where life and livelihoods and their integrity are protected from ocean-related hazards.
  • An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation.
  • An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development, and cultural integrity of Indigenous peoples reliant on the ocean and coastal seas.

The Arctic action plan just delivered by DCMR has been made to kick-start the decade, but will in future be continuously updated to follow progress in development and identify new challenges that must be prioritized.

"Here we have an updated list of common goals and a description of what it takes to achieve them. Of course, the plan is based in particular on the role of science, but in fact also extends much wider to society as a whole. This is especially due to the close bond between the sea and many aspects of life in Arctic regions. But also further south, where you can feel the consequences of the development in the Arctic," says Colin Stedmon.

Head of Section for Oceans and Arctic, Technical University of Denmark, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Karen Edelvang, considers UN’s Ocean Decade to be a very important factor in ensuring that we have sustainable oceans in the future:

"In my section for Oceans and the Arctic, our research has a special focus on the Arctic, because this is where the largest effects are seen from climate change on the marine environment. It matters to the people living in the Arctic, and it matters to all of us when the sea ice in the Central Arctic Ocean is retreating opening up for new possibilities."

"The future climate impact and the exploitation of the Arctic resources are going to be a major challenge in the years to come in the Arctic. Therefore it is very timely to see a regional stakeholder driven action plan—which clearly outlines where the international community should put its efforts, to accelerate progress towards sustainable development in the region. As a research institution we will therefore use this plan actively in our discussions with stakeholders about where and how to prioritize our resources," says Karen Edelvang.

The grand plan for the UN Decade of Ocean Research for Sustainable Development receives regional contributions to action plans for ocean research and sustainability from all parts of the world. The many perspectives on marine research will be presented at today's kickoff conference with contributions from many international names. See the programme for the conference

If we get the ocean we want according to the UN's goal for ocean research in the next ten years, you can follow at the Danish Center for Marine Research—Ocean Decade Initiative



Colin Stedmon

Leader of DCMR and Professor at DTU Aqua

+ 45 24895714