Transatlantic Cooperation: European and Canadian Marine Stakeholders Discuss Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems

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New research results emerging from the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project ATLAS were presented to the Canadian government on 11 May 2018, with the hope that the science-based recommendations will be implemented in future policy-making for sustainable oceans.

Billions of people worldwide rely on the oceans and seas for both food and jobs. In Europe alone, the Marine and Maritime sectors represent roughly 5.4 million jobs and generate a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year. The great potential for innovation and growth of the “blue” economy is recognised by the European Commission’s long-term “Blue Growth” strategy to support sustainable growth, and this meeting proved to be a major step in bringing scientific results to those who draft policies to protect this valuable resource.

The ATLAS consortium, together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), hosted a Science–Policy meeting in Ottawa, Canada. Illustrating the power of transatlantic cooperation between Europe, Canada and the USA through the ‘Galway Declaration’, this important meeting paved the way for future transatlantic collaborative initiatives and frameworks in ocean research. Representatives from both consortia reviewed emerging scientific results to inform Marine Spatial Planning, Blue Growth scenarios and the implications of climate change for deep-sea ecosystems. ATLAS policy lead, Prof David Johnson (Seascape Consultants Ltd., UK) commented on the importance of these efforts: “Environmental change is forcing us to reconsider our approach to managing ocean areas. In Canada we have brought together experts to help identify research results from ATLAS which can be used to inform future governance.”

Discussions continued at the ATLAS symposium on North Atlantic Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas, Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and High Seas Marine Protected Areas in a changing ocean, which was held on 12 May. The symposium attracted 50 participants and discussions focused on identifying areas of Blue Growth in the North Atlantic, and adaptive tools to manage these areas.


ATLAS policy lead, Prof David Johnson experiencing ‘life on board a research vessel’ through a VR head set (Credit: David Johnson).

These events preceded the 4th World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (WCMB) in Montréal. Running from 13–16 May, WCMB is the major focal assembly to share research outcomes, management and policy issues, and discussions on the role of biodiversity in sustaining ocean ecosystems. ATLAS and its sister H2020 projects SponGES and MERCES, had a session on ‘Ocean Basin Scale Research’ running throughout the week and hosted a booth for visitors. Local teachers and students from the area were invited to come and learn more about the deep sea using an innovative 360 Virtual Reality (VR) head set. The eager students were able to experience life on board a research vessel, witnessing all the interesting work that is done on board without getting their feet wet!

The weeks’ events were a significant milestone in ATLAS’ mission to develop a scientific knowledge base that can inform the development of appropriate international policies to ensure deep-sea Atlantic resources are managed effectively. Prof J Murray Roberts, the ATLAS Coordinator at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK) explains “The ATLAS project is intensively studying the best ways society can understand how these remote ecosystems work, and then develop long-lasting management plans to ensure they’re still in good health for future generations.”


ATLAS and DFO representatives at the Science–Policy meeting in Ottawa, Canada (Credit: David Johnson).

For more information on the ATLAS project, please visit, follow @eu_atlas on Twitter or contact Prof J Murray Roberts (
For communication and press queries, please contact Dr Annette Wilson, ATLAS Project Officer, AquaTT (