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.

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!