In pursuit of harmonious co-existence between humanity and the oceans, OPRI addresses various issues relating to the marine environment in order to construct and implement the twelve basic measures set out in the Basic Act on Ocean Policy.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a State may exercise different types of sovereign rights in the territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline (low-water line along the coast), in the contiguous zone (24 nautical miles), in the exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles), and on the continental shelf falling within the range recognized by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. With regard to the remaining areas, i.e., the high seas--lying further away, and beyond the jurisdiction of any state--no established rules exist on the conservation and use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The importance of this problem, including the necessity of establishing a relevant international legal instrument, were pointed out in "The Future We Want," the outcome document from Rio+20 in 2012.
Gas hydrates discovered on the seabed at depths of 500m to 1000m hold promise as energy resources that may be used in the future. In conventional surveys, sediment core samples are collected for analysis above the sea surface. However, this compromises the accuracy of gas hydrate quantity estimates (since gas hydrates--which are formed in a seabed environment under conditions of low temperature and high pressure--decompose soon after being brought on board ship), and necessitates the expenditure of a large amount of time and money on surveying and analysis.
Among the various methods employed for marine observation, offshore surveying using an observation instrument hanging from a winch on board ship is essential for collecting quality data, materials, and samples.
Destruction of the inshore ecosystem in Japan, such as the decrease in seaweed beds and tidal flats and an increase in sea deserts, is giving rise to a significant reduction in productive capacity in the lower trophic levels of the food chain. As a result, fish catches (corresponding to the higher trophic levels) have not been recovering, and the former bountifulness of the ocean is being lost. It is necessary to pursue research and development of technologies that will actively increase the productive capacity of the lower trophic levels in the sea, so that the bounties of the ocean can be restored, and sustainable development of coastal fisheries can be carried out.
Global ocean warming and acidification pose serious problems that require an urgent response. Although scientific research has progressed in this area, there is still no adequate investigation of tangible measures by which Japan and the international community can adapt to or mitigate these problems. Hence, this research was initiated to build the "Ocean Crisis Watch" (provisional name) research platform. Its purpose is to monitor--with respect to the North Western Pacific near Japan--the coming ocean crisis and predict its progress, and to share corresponding data and engage with the international community and other stakeholders in discussion of necessary adaptive and mitigating measures.