Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

SMMI leadership and members shaping activities for United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

Published: 27 April 2020
United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021 – 2030 is an initiative for global ocean stakeholders to come together to develop the knowledge and relationships needed to create the oceans we want for the future.

The UN states “The Decade provides a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to create a new foundation, across the science-policy interface, to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts for the benefit of humanity.”

This represents a concerted global effort to harness the distributed excellence in ocean facing research for the benefit of humanity. As such, it represents a significant opportunity for researchers across the University to engage a broader community and to extend the reach and scope of their work. To help facilitate this the Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute is a registered member of the Decade community, and SMMI leadership and members have been involved in steering group and implementation meetings.

Dean of the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences, Professor Rachel Mills is part of a team led by the Royal Society to shape UK priorities for the Decade. Professor Mills said “We are the current caretakers of the Planet and our Ocean. The Oceans provide a record of our activity and past choices that will be visible for the generations to come. They are the canary that allows us to check our future plans. Coral bleaching, catastrophic sea level rise and flooding, plastic debris mountains, fish kills from deoxygenation are all indications that we haven’t got things right. The UK’s priorities are of course a small part of the required global effort but together we can deliver huge change, and global impact. This will require trans-national cooperation, trust and vision, all of the things articulated so well in the UN Decade of Ocean Science ambitions. We need to decide our priorities locally, regionally, at government level and internationally and make sure they all join up to address our joint vision.”


SMMI Deputy Director Professor Fraser Sturt has been working alongside Dr Helen Farr and Dr Lucy Blue with different University and NGO groups to help provide a focus for culture and heritage under the Ocean Decade umbrella. This has emphasised the need to break down disciplinary boundaries and facilitate transdisciplinary working – an ethos directly in line with the goals of the SMMI.

SMMI Deputy Directors, Professors Susan Gourvenec and Fraser Sturt were invited to participate in the second global planning meeting for the Decade. A 3-day workshop was planned to take place at the UN HQ in Paris in March, which was replaced by an online meeting in April with around 500 participants representing a range of stakeholders, disciplines and regions from around the globe. The purpose of the meeting was to present the Draft Implementation Plan for the Decade and stimulate discussion for formal feedback on the Plan.

The Plan is based on outcomes from global, thematic, and regional planning meetings that convened over 1000 participants from the scientific community, governments, UN agencies, NGOs, private sector and donors across nine ocean basins.

Central to the plan is that ‘Ocean Science’ in the context of the Decade is interpreted broadly - encompassing: social sciences and human dimensions; the infrastructure that supports ocean science (observations, data systems etc.); the application of those sciences for societal benefit, including knowledge transfer and applications in regions that are lacking science capacity; and the science-policy/user interface.


The Plan states that “In short, the Decade is everyone’s Decade and active engagement by all actors will be essential to its success.”

There are many ways to get involved including:

  • Co-Design of Decade Actions
    • Global Stakeholder Forum
    • Decade International Conference series
  • Propose and Implement a Decade Actions
    • Periodic Calls for Action for programmes and projects
  • Decade Implementing Partners
  • Create or Participate in a Stakeholder Group
    • National Decade Coordination Committees
    • Decade Stakeholder Platforms
  • Join the Ocean Decade Alliance
  • Share Decade knowledge through tailored applications and services and capacity development initiatives
  • Become part of "Generation Ocean"

Please get in touch with the SMMI if you would like to contribute to or propose an activity or project.

The Decade offers the opportunity to be a catalyst to transform the ‘ocean we have to the ocean we want’ that includes:

  • A clean ocean
  • A healthy and resilient ocean
  • A predicted ocean
  • A safe ocean
  • A sustainably harvested and productive ocean
  • A transparent and accessible ocean

You can find out more about the Decade of Ocean Science through this video:


Privacy Settings