Ocean Newsletter

No.553 August 20, 2023

  • World Association of Marine Stations: international collaboration among marine stations in support of the global ocean agenda Matthew FROST (Head of International Office, Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
  • Research on Hydrodynamic Interactions between Waves and Floating Structures KASHIWAGI Masashi (Professor Emeritus, Osaka University / Recipient, 15th National Maritime Award)
  • Uncovering Best Practices through the Ocean Education Information Platform SHIBUYA Hiroaki (Depty Director, National Ocean Policy Secretariat, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan)

World Association of Marine Stations: international collaboration among marine stations in support of the global ocean agenda

KEYWORDS UN Decade of Ocean Science / WAMS / World Marine Station Atlas
Matthew FROST (Head of International Office, Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

There are approximately 800 marine stations (coastal education and research facilities) distributed across the globe. In order to maximise the capacities of marine stations participating in regional and national networks, the World Association of Marine Stations(WAMS)seeks to foster collaboration and achieve synergies through the sharing of resources. Through its launching of the first ever comprehensive Atlas of World Marine Stations, WAMS aims to help meet the ocean’s global scale challenges as well as to support the objectives of the UN Decade of Ocean Science.

Issues surrounding the ocean
The 2022 IPCC climate report stated with high confidence that “Climate change has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems”[1]. Also, in 2022 the UN Secretary General in the foreword to the 2nd World Ocean Assessment[2] concluded that “In 2015, the first World Ocean Assessment warned that many areas of the ocean had been seriously degraded… The message in the second World Ocean Assessment is that the situation has not improved”. These global scale changes in our ocean are not just an issue for marine ecosystems, as the impacts are felt across the wider environment and on human society more broadly. There is therefore a sense of urgency as regards the ocean-climate-biodiversity nexus and Japan takes on the G7 Presidency at a time when the ocean is high on the political agenda. In the six months alone from October 2022 to March 2023 there has been: more calls for actions under the UN Ocean Decade; the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework including the target to protect at least 30 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2030; an agreement on a new legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (known as 'BBNJ'); and the latest round of International Seabed Authority led negotiations on a framework for Deep Sea mining. 2022 was labelled ‘The Ocean super-year” with the World Trade Organization concluding an agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies and the United Nations Environment Assembly adopting a resolution for a Global Plastics Treaty.
Role of marine stations

It is vital that this momentum continues and that global resources are mobilized in order to meet the ambitions and targets associated with the developments noted above as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more generally. One very significant marine resource is the approximately 800 marine stations distributed across the globe (although estimates range up to 1200 or more depending on how a ‘marine station’ is defined). In isolation, these stations can be vulnerable, often relying on uncertain funding streams, and a number of stations have closed in recent years. This is one reason that many marine stations join regional (e.g. The European Network of Marine Stations, MARS) or national level networks such as the United States of America’s National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML). Another excellent example of a national network is the Japanese Association for Marine Biology (JAMBIO), initially established in 2009 and today providing a coordinating mechanism for 22 marine stations across Japan.
JAMBIO has also been a key partner for the development of the World Association of Marine Stations (WAMS), which seeks to bring together all world’s marine stations and marine station networks under one umbrella. The idea for WAMS was originally proposed to IOC-UNESCO in 2009 but struggled to gain momentum due to lack of resources. WAMS received a new impetus however in 2021 with the first ever World Congress of Marine Stations. The congress, held virtually over three days, was endorsed by the IOC as an official activity of the UN Decade with IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin providing a keynote presentation on how WAMS could support the aims of the Decade. Over 300 people from marine stations and networks across the globe attended, resulting in an official communique on the establishment of a new WAMS committee being released to take the work forward.

World distribution of marine stations

World distribution of marine stations

Globally, 784 marine stations are maintained by 98 countries: the majority are located in
Asia (23%), followed by Europe (22%), North America (21%), Antarctica (11%), South America (10%), Africa (8%) and Oceania (5%).
(N.B.:  811 stations in 2023 WAMS update)
Goals of the World Association of Marine Stations

So what does WAMS hope to achieve? The main aims are to:

  • Foster collaboration / achieve synergies through resource sharing in order to maximise capacity
  • Provide a common ‘voice’ to promote the value of marine stations at the international and national level
  • Support the training of the next generation in an equitable manner (“leave no one behind) through the identification and provision of bursaries and other funding opportunities based on the UN principle of “Leave no one behind (LNOB)”.
  • To be a mechanism for science-diplomacy in order to achieve the joint working required to address global scale challenges.

A key activity of WAMS in support of capacity building and greater collaboration is the launching of the first ever comprehensive Atlas of World Marine Stations, allowing people to locate any of the world’s marine stations along with contact details and, where available, information on access and funding for exchanges and visits. JAMBIO also played a leading role in developing this Atlas, which is available via the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) website, which is the UK organization hosting WAMS. 
The next step for WAMS is to continue developing the new website and the marine stations Atlas, and work is also underway to propose WAMS as an implementing partner for the UN Decade."  We are also moving forward with planning for the 2nd World Congress in 2024, with Tokyo being considered as a potential venue. Japan’s history with marine biology, its strong international outlook, and JAMBIO’s example in establishing and developing a marine station network make it the ideal place for further development of WAMS.
The scale of the challenges faced in relation to the ocean means that working together to make the best of resources at a global level is not a ‘nice idea’ but an absolute necessity. WAMS is a key resource in support of this goal and it is hoped that Japan and all countries with marine stations will endorse and support this important initiative.   

[1] IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers. (2022) Pörtner et al. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Pörtner, et al (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, USA, pp. 3–33, doi:10.1017/9781009325844.001.
[2] United Nations (2022). The Second World Ocean Assessment. https://www.un.org/regularprocess/sites/www.un.org.regularprocess/files/2011859-e-woa-ii-vol-i.pdf

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