– How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean. These are the words of Sir Arthur Clarke, British writer, futurist, television host and undersea explorer. His statement reminds us of the fact that the globe we inhabit is covered by vast oceans. These are, to a large extent, unexplored. Still, we know more about the surface of the moon, than our deep oceans. The majority of the globe‚Äôs biomass is to be found in the oceans. Yet, the food we consume is largely produced on land. Modern technology will surely allow exploration of our deep oceans. Oceans impact climate change in a way that we are on the brink of understanding. And feeding a growing population will have to rely on the oceans. Clearly, our globe is a ‚Äúblue planet‚ÄĚ, as phrased by Sir David Attenborough.
‚ÄúThe ocean economy is essential to the future welfare and prosperity of humankind. It is a key source of food, energy, minerals, health, leisure and transport upon which hundreds of millions of people depend.‚ÄĚ These are the introductory words of the OECD‚Äôs Ocean Economy 2030 ‚Äď report. This report explores the potential of an emerging ‚Äúblue‚ÄĚ economy. But it also underlines the critical importance of a sustainable ocean based economy and the need for international cooperation and integrated management of the oceans. ‚ÄúIt is important to find the right balance between economic development and environmental sustainability.‚ÄĚ The focus on sustainability is shared by the UN, as reflected in the Sustainability Development Goal no 14: ‚ÄúConserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.¬Ľ
Sustainable resource management must rest on a base of knowledge ‚Äď knowledge built through research, underpinning our education and transferred from the academic environment to the external world, i.e. public service and private sector. And this is also the role of higher education and research institutions like universities.
Norway has for centuries been a maritime and costal nation with a significant fraction of its value creation based on marine resources. And with the close proximity to the sea, the University of Bergen has over years developed an international marine research and educational profile, together with local collaborative partners like The Institute of Marine Research.
Our marine research has been dominated by the natural sciences. And it is our ambition to contribute to ground-breaking research. In 2008¬†researchers from the University of Bergen discovered ‚ÄúLokeslottet‚ÄĚ ‚Äď a hot spring 2350 meters below the sea surface between Iceland and Svalbard. ‚ÄúLokeslottet‚ÄĚ is spewing mineral-rich water of 320 degress Celsius ‚Äď or approximately 600 degrees Fahrenheit into the ocean. In the surroundings, rear earth metals and other minerals of industrial interest, are found. In the same harsh environment, organisms and molecules with unique features and properties, are also to be found – organisms and molecules of importance for medical research. Explorations of the deep oceans requires next generation, smart observational technology. This month Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, open The Norwegian Ocean Laboratory at our university.
Earlier this year students convened at our campus to compete in the global competition called ‚ÄúFishackathon‚ÄĚ, under the supervision of associate professor Dorothy Dankel.¬†A ‚Äúhack‚ÄĚ means to come up with an innovative, new idea. A ‚Äúhack-a-thon‚ÄĚ is a new term that refers to gatherings of ‚Äúhackers‚ÄĚ that ‚Äúhack‚ÄĚ a solution to a problem. ‚ÄúFishackathon‚ÄĚ was born in 2013 as part of Secretary of State John Kerry‚Äôs ocean initiative. Teams worked on topics like designing apps to identify areas for Asian carp – an invasive species in the Great Lakes region of North America – spawning, apps to consolidate and integrate marine regulations in time and space, and an app to help fish consumers identify where their fish comes from and if it is sustainably caught or not.
Sustainable management of the oceans is complex and calls for a multidisciplinary approach. No discipline alone can assure a sufficient, integrated knowledge base. We therefore firmly believe that there is a need for what we can call ‚Äúthe next generation marine research‚ÄĚ ‚Äď where social sciences, economy, humanities and law play a greater role. The University of Bergen is currently implementing a new strategy for integrated research on central issues. Hopefully, a center for Ocean law will be an integral part of our marine strategy and activities.
As the oceans and marine resources will be vital to the world‚Äôs future supply of food, resources, and energy, it is necessary to develop institutions for international cooperation for effective governance of the oceans. And the overarching goal must be sustainability. There is sufficient evidence on various practices and challenges to provide the insights required to make legal reform possible. The ‚Äėfree‚Äô oceans subject to climate change and tense relations between states, are obvious candidates for developing and implementing regimes that aim to ensure sustainable exploitation of resources. Regimes for the use of common pool resources will have to calibrate proper incentives for investment and innovation in resource management. Tradable use rights – such as quotas – have been successful. Nevertheless, there are concerns that calls for research and policy review. In the case of fisheries, special emphasis must be placed on the migration patterns of several important fish stocks as they are affected by climate change.
Similar problems are faced in the regulation of exploration of minerals and petroleum resources, aquaculture, and bio-prospecting. The balance between market and state intervention is an important issue, where Norwegian and Scandinavian models have been internationally recognized.
World Ocean Review – from 2010 – points out limits to the law of the sea with specific referral to global warming and its impact on the marine environment, but also the future access to resources at the sea floor. The report high-lights three areas of concern: the underwater land grab, bickering over borders, and ‚Äď finally – the law of the sea and climate mitigation.
The Law of the Sea constitutes the base for the governance of the oceans and the marine resources. But new challenges due to climate change, changes in ecosystems, increased pressure on marine resources and new knowledge, call for a new legal development.
The oceans ‚Äď with its immense resource wealth ‚Äď may boost global economy, create new jobs and stimulate innovation. But it is also our responsibility to secure a sustainable management of the vast resources of the planet Ocean. The University of Bergen will contribute to this.
This is a speech held by rector Dag Rune Olsen at the¬†2016 Conference “Legal Order in the World’s Oceans: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea” which is being hosted¬† June 27-28 at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City.