Hack4Oceans Challenges

 

 1. Marine Litter: How might we engage citizens and organisations in preventing marine litter? How might we put a stop to microplastics pollution?

2. Food from the Ocean: How might we develop and diversify sustainable aquaculture and produce alternative foods from the ocean?

3. Ocean and Climate Change: How might we boost offshore clean energy production and manage the impact of sea level rise?

4. Coastal Ecosystems: How might we better protect European coastal ecosystems from urban development, biodiversity loss, and erosion?

Marine Litter

Summary

Every year, millions of tonnes of marine litter end up in the ocean worldwide, causing massive environmental, economic and health problems. While new legislative measures are put in place worldwide to reduce single-use plastics, substantial additional efforts are required to:

– Change behaviour of individuals with regards to marine litter;

– Specifically address microplastics pollution.

Problem Description

Marine litter causes serious economic damage for coastal communities, tourism, shipping and fishing. From an environmental perspective, marine litter may be one of the fastest growing threats to the health of the world’s oceans.

While EU directives (e.g. Plastic Bags, Single Use Plastics) are important in the fight against plastic pollution, much more effort is needed to make people and organisations aware of marine pollution and their own responsibilities in preventing such pollution.

It is therefore a key priority to raise awareness and stimulate behaviour change among the wider public and key stakeholders in the private and public sector.

Microplastics present a particularly insidious part of this challenge. Microplastics are a major concern due to their potential toxicity and size, and resulting harm to the animals that ingest them and consequently to humans. Recent research in the Mediterranean also showed that more than 80% of marine litter items collected were microplastics[1].

While the clean-up efforts for plastic litter before it degrades into microplastics are worthwhile, an additional effort is needed to prevent microplastics pollution. Microplastics are used directly in certain products (e.g. industrial abrasives, exfoliants), are generated during the use of products (e.g. washing clothes) and are carried by sewage.

[1] EU Coastal and Marine Policy. 2019.
https://ec.europa.eu/environment/marine/good-environmental-status/descriptor-10/index_en.htm. 

HOW MIGHT WE (HMW) Questions

Raise public awareness and stimulate behaviour change, both among the wider public and among private and public stakeholders.

 HMW we increase and improve education about marine pollution in schools, especially primary schools?

 HMW encourage coastal tourists to stop littering and clean up beaches?

 HMW encourage citizens to report coastal pollution and enable them to do something about it too?

Reduce the use and generation of microplastics and prevent their flows in the oceans.

 HMW prevent the use of microplastics in the manufacturing of consumer and industrial goods?

 HMW filter microplastics from waste water?

 HMW prevent microplastics pollution created by household washing machines?

 HMW prevent microplastics pollution created by industrial cleaning and laundry activities?

Food from the Ocean

Summary

While overfishing and declining fish stocks are a major problem, the ocean as a human food source is in fact a vastly underexploited resource. In Europe there is substantial opportunity to further develop and diversify sustainable aquaculture. New solutions and initiatives are needed for:

– Diversifying foods cultivated in the oceans, especially from lower trophic levels (e.g. algae, bivalves, invertebrates) and ones that can be produced locally;

– Creating local jobs and stimulating local entrepreneurship in alternative ocean foods; 

– Changing public perceptions and habits regarding aquaculture;

Problem Description

While the world’s oceans account for almost half of the planet’s biological production, they provide a much smaller proportion of human food – about 2% of overall calorie intake and 15% of protein intake[1]. That is a missed opportunity, given the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population and the increasing pressure on land-based food sources.

In the meantime, the oceans as potential food source are under increasing threat from global warming, acidification and pollution. Therefore, we urgently need innovative solutions that increase sustainable food production from the oceans while also reducing the pressure from human activity on the health of the ocean.

In Europe, aquaculture is a key priority because it can satisfy the market’s demand for high-quality seafood, while contributing to the development of coastal regions through other Blue Economy activities in technology, science, infrastructure and tourism. Despite such opportunities, growth rate of aquaculture output in Europe has fallen behind global rates[2]. New solutions and initiatives are needed for growing and diversifying aquaculture in Europe.  

[1] European Commission DG Research and Innovation. 2017. Food from the Oceans report
https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/food-oceans_en

[2] FAO. 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals http://www.fao.org/3/i9540en/i9540en.pdf

HOW MIGHT WE (HMW) Questions

Diversifying foods cultivated in the oceans, especially from lower trophic levels (e.g. algae, bivalves, invertebrates).

 HMW increase diversification in aquaculture, with regard to new foods (i.e. algae, bivalves, etc.), technologies and markets?

► HMW incentivise large industry to partner with entrepreneurs in developing new alternative foods from the ocean?

► HMW identify and develop new food sources of lower trophic levels than carnivorous fish such as herbivore fish, invertebrates and algae?

Creating local jobs and stimulating local entrepreneurship in alternative ocean foods

► HMW create new and attractive professions and work opportunities in aquaculture as well as in processing, developing, and marketing of alternative foods from the oceans?

► HMW encourage transition from local fishing to local aquaculture through developing skills and improving education about aquaculture, or by providing – for example – “starter kits”?

► HMW help local aquaculture businesses grow by creating and delivering useful market knowledge?

Changing public perceptions and habits regarding aquaculture

► HMW change the public’s negative perception of aquaculture products and promote consumption of sustainable aquaculture products?

► HMW leverage alternative food from the ocean as an element in sustainable tourism?

Climate Change

Summary

Climate change is a direct threat to life in oceans – and to humanity in the long term. It poses a risk to marine food sources and biodiversity, as well as directly threatens coastal communities through sea level rise. Yet the ocean also can provide climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. New approaches are needed that:

– Increase the ocean’s potential as a carbon sink in a sustainable way;

– Increase clean energy production in/on/from the ocean;

– Manage the impacts of sea level rise;

– Increase public awareness and influence climate policy.

Problem Description

While the world’s oceans are seriously threatened by climate change, they can also provide important adaptation and mitigation measures to climate change. For one, oceans absorb around a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere. While it may be useful to stimulate CO2 sequestration by the marine environment in a targeted way, the CO2 absorption process is causing a rapid rise in seawater acidity that is threatening marine biodiversity and in the longer term, human prosperity. 

Ocean acidification can only be stopped by addressing the source and reducing carbon emissions, an important part of which are created through the unsustainable production of energy. Again, the oceans can provide alternatives through ocean-based clean energy infrastructure. While there has been huge investment in offshore wind power, there is still a tremendous amount of untapped atmospheric, tidal and thermic energy in and above the oceans.

Finally, sea level rise is putting coastal communities around the world at risk (recent research estimates that land that is currently home to 300 million people will flood at least once a year by 2050 unless carbon emissions are cut significantly and coastal defences strengthened[1]). As such, it is essential that we find ways to manage the impact of sea level rise. 

[1] Kulp, S.A., Strauss, B.H. New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Nat Commun 10, 4844 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12808-z

HOW MIGHT WE (HMW) Questions

Increase the ocean’s potential as a carbon sink in a sustainable way

► HMW ramp up natural CO2 sequestration by the marine environment, for example through protection and enhancement of marine vegetation, or through restoration of wetland and other coastal ecosystems?

► HMW identify organisms that can sequester maximum CO2 and be engineered to do so more?

Increase clean energy production in/on/from the ocean

► HMW scale up ocean energy production in a synergistic way with the environment and other maritime activities (e.g. promoting collaboration between different industries, ocean energy production, coastal protection, fisheries and aquaculture)?

► HMW integrate one or two maritime activities with ocean energy production (e.g. off-shore wind turbines and aquaculture)?

 HMW harness the increased energy in the ocean-atmospheric system (e.g. storms) to produce clean energy solutions?

Increase public awareness and influence climate policy

► HMW better communicate the impact of climate change on our oceans to the wider public in order to influence behaviour and policy making?

► HMW better communicate/visualise the impact of an ocean under stress and thereby mobilise the public and policy makers?

Coastal Ecosystems

Summary

Europe’s coastal ecosystems are under significant pressure due to urban development, tourism, pollution and biodiversity loss. Urgent action is required to:

– Create more and larger Coastal Protected Areas;

– Better protect coastal ecosystems from biodiversity loss, erosion and sea level rise;

– Increase public awareness and engagement with coastal ecosystems.

Problem Description

Ecosystems such as coastal zones, transitional waters, and near-shore marine areas are among the most biologically productive, yet threatened systems in the world. Europe’s coastal systems are under considerable degradation due to growing population densities along the coast, pollution, eutrophication (nutrient enrichment from agriculture, waste water, etc.), erosion and the introduction of alien species.

The competitive pressure on Europe’s coastal regions is immense. Almost half of the EU population lives less than 50 km from the sea and coastal tourism is a hugely important economic sector employing over 3.2 million people.

If we are to protect our natural coastal ecosystems we will need to take a longer-term perspective and make necessary trade-offs between different coastal users. Key priorities are to increase the number and size of protected coastal ecosystems, better protect and manage those we have, and engage the public and all relevant stakeholders in that task.

HOW MIGHT WE (HMW) Questions

Create more and larger Coastal Protected Areas?

► HMW designate as much as 30% of European coasts as Protected Areas?

► HMW identify and prioritise areas that are good candidates as Coastal Protected Areas?

 HMW improve protection of coastal ecosystems by connecting inland Protected Areas to Coastal Protected Areas[1]?

[1] Lucy Bastin, Noel Gorelick, Santiago Saura, Bastian Bertzky, Grégoire Dubois, Marie-Josée Fortin, Jean-Francois Pekel. Inland surface waters in protected areas globally: Current coverage and 30-year trends. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210496  

Better protect coastal ecosystems from biodiversity loss  

► HMW consistently track and respond faster to biodiversity loss through monitoring key indicator species?

► HMW engineer new ecosystems around energy production sites, algae culture sites and other marine infrastructure?

Better protect coastal ecosystems from biodiversity loss  

► HMW consistently track and respond faster to biodiversity loss through monitoring key indicator species?

► HMW engineer new ecosystems around energy production sites, algae culture sites and other marine infrastructure?

Increase public awareness and engagement with coastal ecosystems  

► HMW we improve ocean literacy, both in coastal and inland communities, and motivate people to protect coastal ecosystems?

► HMW engage coastal tourists to reduce pollution and protect coastal ecosystems?

 HMW encourage public involvement in marine data collection (e.g. through reporting, photos, sensors, etc.), and conversely how might we make marine data and information accessible and relevant to citizens?

 HMW stimulate citizen engagement in coastal ecosystem management and decision making?

 HMW we facilitate coordinated/joint decision making by multiple stakeholders, including coastal communities, authorities and economic players?