Canada convenes kick-off meeting as Blue Charter champion on ocean observation

Members of the Commonwealth action group on ocean observation gathered in Ottawa, Canada this week to launch a strategy to advance ocean observation opportunities. The meeting also tackled youth and gender issues in ocean science.

Chaired by Canada, the action group is one of nine under the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement made by all 53 member countries to actively co-operate to solve ocean-related problems and achieve sustainable ocean development.

Keith Lennon, Director of Ocean and Climate Change Science for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said: “Canada is proud to be the Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion on ocean observations and welcomes its role as an ocean leader, recognised around the world for its expertise in ocean science, sustainable management and emergency response.

“Effective ocean management depends on observations of the ocean, much of which is generated by existing national or regional ocean observing systems and networks.

“Sustained observation in both coasts and open ocean informs decision-making in areas such as coastal development and protection, climate change adaptation, fisheries and agriculture, and disaster risk reduction.”

He added the action group plans to target opportunities to increase the innovation, development, and deployment of ocean observational technologies. It will also focus on enhancing access to key data, knowledge, and best practices, as well information exchange amongst countries.

Commonwealth Head of Oceans and Natural Resources Nicholas Hardman-Mountford said: “The ocean is being subjected to a huge range of human pressures, including climate change, while new areas of the ocean are being opened to exploitation.

“Commonwealth countries have made it clear through the Blue Charter that they are committed to taking action to ensure the ocean and its resources are managed in a sustainable manner.”

The action group will work in partnership with local, indigenous, small island, and remote coastal communities. Members will also engage the private sector, international organisations and the public to assess needs, policy gaps and solutions. Gender equality is a priority for all initiatives.

The two-day meeting will finalise the action group’s terms of reference and outline concrete next steps.

Applications open for second round of Blue Charter fellowships

Emerging scholars have a key opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research on marine plastic pollution at top universities and firms across the Commonwealth.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) recently launched the second round of the Blue Charter Fellowship Programme, which will support 10 academic fellows in designing innovations to tackle ocean pollution. Focus areas include preventing plastics from getting into the sea, alternatives to plastics, and the potential for cleaning up the seas.

Through funding from British supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners, as part of the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research & Innovation Framework (MPRIF), each fellow will be placed for up to six months in ACU member universities, as well as in industry.

The group follows the first cohort of 35 fellows, who completed their programme in March.

ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General Joanna Newman said: “This funding is testament to the incredible work being carried out by the first cohort of Blue Charter fellows. These researchers are at the forefront of driving social change around the issue of marine plastics pollution and these new fellowships will further contribute to the aims of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

“We’re very grateful to Waitrose, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy [BEIS], the Commonwealth Secretariat and all of our partners for ensuring the continued success of this programme.”

Each fellow will receive a grant of up to £14,000 to cover travel, accommodation, sustenance, travel insurance, vaccinations and visa costs. Grants of £4,000 for research costs associated with the fellowship will also be awarded.

In addition, fellows from both calls will have access to bespoke online training on boosting the impact of their research, along with the chance to apply for one of 30 grants to deliver research impact activities.

Commonwealth Head of Oceans and Natural Resources Nicholas Hardman-Mountford welcomed the new cycle of fellowships, adding: “Marine plastics are drastically affecting the health of our ocean, marine life and the blue economy. With more and more Commonwealth members taking bold actions to address these issues, the Blue Charter fellows will be able to create lasting solutions and real-world impact through this programme.”

The programme is aligned with the Commonwealth Blue Charter, a commitment by the 53 member states on collective action towards sustainable ocean governance. Marine plastic pollution is one of nine focus areas or ‘action groups’ championed by member countries.

More information on how to apply for the fellowships. Applications close on Sunday 16 June.

All Champions Meeting of the Commonwealth Blue Charter

This event at Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London from 18 to 21 June will reflect on the work carried out by Blue Charter action groups over the past year within the context of wider ocean issues.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter was a landmark document launched at CHOGM 2018 where all 53 Commonwealth countries galvanised their support for ocean action. Progress under the Blue Charter is being carried out through member-led Action Groups on issues from ocean acidification to coral and mangrove restoration, and from marine plastics to the blue economy.

To mark a year since the launch of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, the Commonwealth Secretariat is bringing together the champion countries leading those Action Groups, to consider how further progress can be made. During this workshop, the Secretariat is also connecting these representatives with potential external partners, to consider how they can achieve more, together.