MARINA is a Coordination and Support Action under the EU Horizon 2020 Research Programme with a view to promote Responsible Research and Innovation through federating knowledge exchange and sharing on a common platform. It is coordinated by Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Italy. Among the partners are the World Ocean Network, of which Mundus maris is also a part, and the international non-profit JPI Oceans.

As part of a series of stakeholder consultations, the Marina project organised an international workshop to discuss, explore, propose and network around the topical challenge just prior to the beginning of official negotiations at the UN: Governance of the High Seas: An Inclusive Approach. The workshop took place in the offices of JPI Oceans in Brussels on 29 May 2018 with diplomates associated with ocean negotiations, representatives of the tuna fishing industry, academia, civil society and public outreach organisations. Cornelia E Nauen participated for Mundus maris.

The workshop methodology consisted of triggering initial comments from participants to leading questions prior to the event. Together with a discussion piece from the organisers these formed the inputs for the first phase of the workshop aiming at the generation of ideas towards the overarching question: What responsible research and innovation actions are needed for good governance of the High Seas?

This first brain storming about the ideas allowed participants in two rounds to reflect on and reformulate their initial submissions or add new ideas. Active listening allowed for good exchanges. Each participant would also make a pitch for their favourite idea. This was video taped to reflect everybody's views faithfully in later reporting.

In a second step, participants clustered and voted on the ideas. As a result of the intensive exchanges during the morning the ensuing learning process allowed to reduce the about 40 initial suggestions and find some convergent views.

With the help of analytical software and several rounds of voting for causal relationship between ideas retained a hierarchy between key ideas emerged. The results of this analysis was partially surprising as the most influential factors singled out what work on documenting biodiversity in the High Seas, which had initially received few votes during the clustering. The subsequent voting about cross-causalities had, however, revealed how fundamental it was for any governance process to have sufficient data in a structured and readily accessible way for all stakeholders.

The second pivotal issue arising from the analysis was the need for raising awareness of all actors and the public at large about the high seas. The two are, of course, also related to one another as structured and easily available knowledge about biodiversity and the high seas in general is an important feature around which to raise public awareness.

Participants during the clustering and voting processIn the final step, participants broke out into smaller group discussions to explore practical steps that could be taken within a short time frame. One of the discussions focussed on ensuring that data and information were indeed being collected fresh or harmonised, organised in public information systems and quality-checked to address the foundation of good governance. That would e.g. add significant value to currently still dispersed data from the Census of Marine Life.  FishBase and SeaLifeBase were suggested as repositories for biodiversity metadata in the public domain in close collaboration with other existing platforms performing well for specific purposes, such as the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), GBIF for occurrence data. Two other groups worked on different aspects of educating the public, e.g. through multi-media products, public exhibitions for which aquaria and information centres had excellent experience, doing short video clips to account for evolving public viewing and learning modes and expectations.

The diplomates underscored their interest in accessing good science results and interacting more with marine scientists provided these were openminded beyond their specialty knowledge and willing to engage critically with others as part of a long process of developing mutual understanding, respect and trust.

The project team will produce the workshop report for viewing on the Marina Project website. Meanwhile the succinct output of the workshop can be seen here.

 Text and photos: C.E. Nauen