Report from North Atlantic Regional Meeting for the UN Decade of Ocean Science

North Atlantic Regional Meeting Attendees
Figure 1: Attendees of the North Atlantic Regional Meeting for the UN Decade

ICAN was represented at the North Atlantic Regional Meeting for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development held from January 6-10, 2020 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. This meeting was hosted by the Canadian research network the Ocean Frontier Institute ( and sponsored by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and one of several regional meetings for each ocean basin (visit for details on other regional meetings). The purpose of the meetings was to help “shape the decade” facilitated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.


One hundred and thirty six delegates from Europe and North America (see Figure 1) participated in working groups organized by the Decade’s societal outcomes, A Clean Ocean, A Safe Ocean, A Healthy and Resilient Ocean, A Sustainable Productive Ocean, A Predicted Ocean and A Transparent and Accessible Ocean.

The meeting began with greetings and prayer by Dorene Bernard, Mi’kmaq Grassroots Grandmother and Water Protector. The meeting was gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Mi’kmaw indigenous nations. Elder Bernard led a water ceremony honouring the value of water to the physical and spiritual health of humanity and creation.


Plenary presentations were made by members of the Executive Planning Committee and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. These presentations can be found on the meeting’s website at The meeting had the advantage of the participation of several All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassadors, student note takers from Dalhousie University Masters of Marine Management Program and a graphical facilitator. The final graphic produced by the facilitator is shown in Figure 2.

The ICAN representative had the opportunity to participate in two working groups, A Transparent and Accessible Ocean and A Healthy and Resilient Ocean.

Transparent and Accessible Ocean Working Group

The final reporting from the Transparent and Accessible Ocean focused on three themes:

  1. Building a “digital twin” ocean called Atlantic Ocean 5D encompassing data, observations and information;
    1. Ocean 5D will provide “Rapid, standardized, and credited sharing of data, information and knowledge through a distributed digital commons where material is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reuseable i.e. FAIR.”
  2. Capacity Building Exchange they called Atlantic Ocean Connect;
    1. Need for a clearing house for capacity exchange activities;
    2. Need for institutional recognition of capacity exchange;
    3. Need to highlight the benefits and best practices for capacity exchange; and
    4. Need for mutual two-way (developed <> developing)
    5. Key words “respect and listening”
  3. Ocean literacy they called Atlantic Ocean Knowledge.
    1. Do the present ocean literacy initiatives work? Need for research to answer this question;
    2. Need to professionalize ocean literacy practitioners;
    3. Need for better partnering with educators; and
    4. Need for boundary organizations to transform science to policy

During the first working group session on this theme, the role of Official Development Assistance in enabling capacity exchange between a well-resourced North Atlantic region with other less well-off ocean regions was suggested.

Healthy and Resilient Ocean Working Group

The final reporting from the Healthy and Resilient Ocean working group suggested the following vision for the end of the Decade in 2030:

“By 2030, we seek to have implemented science-based, effective Marine Spatial Planning and Ecosystem Based Management systems and tools to maintain / restore / strengthen ecosystem resilience in the face of competing ocean uses.”

Other priorities identified by the working group included:

  1. Evaluating ecosystem resilience;
  2. Understanding ocean structure and function (and lose);
  3. Quantifying socio-ecological trade-offs of human activities; and
  4. Consider governance, policy and engagement.

Other working group reports were:

Clean Ocean Working Group

The Clean Ocean working group categorized pollution issues and sectors by importance and trends. The most important included CO2 and fossil fuels, species transfer, underwater noise and shipping, underwater noise and extraction industries, chemical pollution, plastic and wastewater and plastic and fisheries.

Safe Ocean Working Group

The Safe Ocean working group recommended the development of a North Atlantic Risk Map.

Sustainable Productive Ocean Working Group

A Sustainable Productive Ocean working group recommended the objective of an evidence-based sustainable productive ocean economy in the face of increasing anthropogenic pressure and identified the following research gaps and transformative practices:

  1. Governance science and communication;
  2. Integration of different knowledge systems;
  3. Development of inclusive integrated ecosystem assessments; and
  4. Marine spatial planning.

Cross-cutting Themes

Other features of the meeting were reports from participants tasked with looking at cross cutting themes:

  1. Capacity building exchange and technology transfer
    1. Delegates were warned to use the language of exchange rather than building and transfer since in every relationship the exchange of capacity and technology is mutual.
  2. Partnerships and financing
    1. The OECD report on the Ocean Economy in 2030 was mentioned.
  3. Access to information, data, and knowledge
    1. Need for data and knowledge and systems for access need to be “fit for propose”.
  4. Awareness raising and inclusivity
    1. Inclusivity is based on respectful relationships and inclusion in the whole process. Too often indigenous communities have been approached for research and data collection but the researchers are never to be heard from again.
  5. Transdisciplinarity
    1. There is a need to increase the range of disciplines including historians, ethicists, and planners. The final graphic suggested transformation as the objective transdisciplinarity but it should be considered aspirational. How do we transition through intermediate steps? The process is more important than outcomes.
    2. How do we reconcile when knowledge systems come to different conclusions?

Comments heard during the meeting on several occasions were the need to include other UN agencies with a role in oceans e.g. IMO, WMO, FAO, UNEP and equitable partnership with social scientists.

Summary Graphic

 A wonderful summary infographic captured the major themes and findings of the meeting:

Summary infographic for the North Atlantic Regional Meeting
Figure 2: Summary infographic for the North Atlantic Regional Meeting

Next Steps

The results of the regional meetings will be presented to the Second Global Planning Meeting for the Decade to be held in Paris in March. The Decade implementation plan will be presented to the United Nations Ocean Conference to be held in Lisbon in June. The kick off for the Decade will take place in Germany in May 2021.

ICAN Tweets @ICANAtlas

ICAN is active on Twitter since August 2018  and has since gained 337 followers and while activity on social media varies and strongly relates to ICAN members taking part in events; ICAN gains on average 20 new followers and receives about 44 profile visits per month. The account reaches on average 4115 monthly tweet impressions, which refers to the number of times a tweet shows up in a twitter users timeline.

Example TweetThemes

Numerous ICAN tweets to date are relevant to the UN Decade of Ocean Science and support associated dissemination of information and engagement with relevant topics. ICAN twitter audiences are gender balanced with 59% of the ICAN audience identifying as female according to Twitter analytics from June 2019.

Example Tweet


In May 2019, in support of the 1st Global Planning Meeting of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in Copenhagen ICAN generated 20 organic tweets with 17 specifically using the hashtag #OceanScience or #OceanDecade to encourage and disseminate event specific information in addition to relevant retweets from event participants that use twitter. ICAN in that month reached nearly 8000 tweet impressions, which refers to the number of times a tweet shows up in a twitter users timeline. In return the networks twitter account received 100 profile visits demonstrating interest of attendees in finding out more about the network.

Next Steps

ICAN commits to the continued retweeting of relevant content related to the Decade as well as tweeting original content accompanied by Decade Tags where appropriate.

Follow us @ICANAtlas



ICAN has a New Look!

ICAN logo - verticalThanks to the wonderful talents of Amy Dozier, Research Assistant at MaREI Centre, University College Cork, ICAN has both an updated logo and color scheme, and the new look has been applied throughout the web site at: Thank you Amy!

To celebrate the new look, we’ve also moved a wealth of articles from the Newsletter archives onto the website, and we are working on linking these to the searchable directory of Atlases that is currently in progress.

If you have an old ICAN logo on your Atlas, we appreciate the support, and are ready to supply updated versions depending on your needs. Both horizontal and vertical versions are available, as well as a version that works side-by-side with the IDOE logo. The two most common versions are available at:

Please let us know if you need other versions or sizes!


University of Wisconsin initiates two phase study of coastal web atlases

David Hart
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Wisconsin Sea grantThe University of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the Cartography Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are conducting a two-phase evaluation to identify best practices and future directions for the design and use of coastal web atlases. Preliminary results of this research will be presented at the Social Coast Forum in Charleston, South Carolina in February 2020.

Phase I

The first phase involves a comparative analysis of coastal web atlases in the United States Atlases from Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin will be reviewed by their interface design, usability, map representations and data services. The analysis is organized by the broad categories of maps, tools, catalog and learning resources, where:

  • Maps are defined as: “Web maps which allow users to view coastal topics as presentational items and lack advanced analysis through exploration.”
  • Tools are defined as: “Web maps and other tools which have advanced analysis and/or exploration features to guide decisions about coastal management.”
  • Catalogs are defined as “Collections of data and/or media which is often accessed through an exploratory interface.”
  • Learning resources are defined as: “Mostly textual information and/or story maps about a particular coastal topic which aim to educate the user on the topic.”

The only maps, tools, catalogs and learning resources included for review are those linked from the home page or other affiliated pages of the state coastal web atlases.

Phase II

The second phase is a survey that will be sent to representative users of the same 10 state coastal web atlases beginning in November 2019. The survey will track the same four broad categories of the comparative analysis (maps, tools, catalog and learning resources) and will ask questions about user experiences, values, and opinions regarding these resources.

Insights from both the comparative analysis and user survey will be used to improve the design of the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas. Results should be relevant to developers of other coastal web atlases and could be used more broadly to guide the design and use of geospatial information and maps for coastal management. For more information about this study, contact David Hart with Wisconsin Sea Grant at Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo..


Vol, 8, Nr 2 - Now Available!

We are now entering our 9th year publishing the ICAN newsletter. Many thanks to our Editor Andy Sherin!

Please consider preparing an article for the next newsletter that will likely be published in the spring of this year.

Happy New Year!

Photos from CoastGIS 2018

Our friends from CoastGIS 2018 have posted a wonderful gallery of photos, including the recent ICAN mini-workshop:

See how many ICAN members you can spot!