» UNESCO Honours Global Champions of Ocean Science
07.06.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

UNESCO Honours Global Champions of Ocean Science

© ArgentinaUN

New York, 6 June 2017 - The Seychelles, Norway, and the United States were among eight countries and organizations honoured today for their contribution to global ocean science by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC).

The other honorees recognized for their efforts to build greater capacity and international cooperation on ocean science included: Argentina; Morocco; Portugal; Nippon Foundation and the UN Environment’s #CleanSeas campaign. All these ocean science champions were honoured through a special event at the UN Ocean Conference designed to highlight IOC’s first Global Ocean Science Report, which will be launched on 8 June, World Oceans Day, in New York.

Missed the Ocean's 8 Celebration? Watch the highlights of the ceremony and high level panel.

Norway was recognized as an “Ocean’s 8 Champion” for its efforts to build professional capacity in ocean science. With 364 ocean science researchers for every 1 million inhabitants Norway now has established itself as a global ocean science powerhouse.

Since the early 2000’s, Norway has gone from being the Scandinavian country with the fewest PhDs to being the worldwide leader in terms of ocean scientists per capita. From 2005 Norway invested millions in developing centres of research excellence, and improving research infrastructure and human resources support for marine science. The Norwegian Government, informed by an engaged scientific community, recognized ocean science early on as a fundamental priority for sustainable economic development.

Ocean science remains a remarkably expensive undertaking and probing the ocean requires research vessels, satellite imagery and the use of submarine robots or remotely controlled submersible vehicles. This also involves the collection and processing of data by thousands of scientists working at sea or in laboratories.

In 2010, the OECD estimated the value of the ocean’s resources at about $1.5 trillion. Traditionally more than 70% of the total budget for ocean science has come from public funding at the national level, but UNESCO’s Global Ocean Science Report says this is subject to considerable fluctuations from year to year. In order to support sustained investment in ocean science, the report says governments should consider supporting more innovative funding models that involve greater intergovernmental cooperation or increasing partnership opportunities with the private sector. 

The Republic of the Seychelles was recognized as an “Ocean’s 8 Champion” for developing an innovative debt swap scheme that has enabled this small island developing nation to finance local ocean science and climate resilience programmes. This innovative scheme will increase protection for the country’s coastal and marine biodiversity from less than 1% to more than 30% by 2020 and helped to support the establishment of new Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust.

The former President of the Seychelles, James Alix Michel, was instrumental in setting up the debt swap scheme. He hopes this high level recognition will help to highlight the benefits of applying innovative financing solutions to support ocean science activities around the world.

“It is a great honour for Seychelles to be recognized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO for our work for this gives us an international platform to show the world an innovative model for financing ocean science and conservation work,” he says.

The United States was also recognized for its longstanding investment into global ocean science infrastructure, including its support for the Global Ocean Observing System. As part of this work the United States funds well over 50 percent of the global array of Argo floats that are helping to revolutionize our understanding of how the ocean helps store and transfer the heat in our planet.

In the US alone it is estimated that the improved El Niño forecasting supported by information from the Global Ocean Observing System could be worth at least $100 million a year to the producers of staple crops such as wheat and corn. Craig McLean, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, says many aspects of the United States economy continues to benefit from its investment and participation in this intergovernmental system.

“Part of the science mission in the United States and the programmes that we have inside of NOAA, the National Science Foundation, NASA and many other agencies of the US government is to measure the changes in the aspects of the world’s oceans. We have the pulse, we have the respiration, we have the blood pressure of the oceans but interestingly we don’t yet have that full body x-ray of the world’s oceans,” he says. “We need a good map of the oceans.”

The “Ocean’s 8” ceremony honouring these champions of ocean science was also supported by: the United Nations General Assembly; UN Environment; Sky TV’s Sky Ocean Rescue Campaign; and the Governments of Iceland and Peru.

The full list of 8 countries and organizations have been honoured as champions of ocean science in the following categories:

1.     Development of innovative financing solutions for ocean science

The Republic of the Seychelles 

2.     Developing professional capacity in ocean science


3.     Supporting science-based solutions to reduce ocean plastics

UN Environment’s #CleanSeas Campaign

4.     Supporting gender equality in ocean science


5.     Supporting sustained national investment in ocean science



6.     Supporting international cooperation in ocean science



7.     Supporting investment in ocean science infrastructure for the benefit of the global community

United States of America


8.     Promoting education and outreach on ocean science

Nippon Foundation


Video resources

Ocean's 8 Celebration Highlights (Ceremony): http://on.unesco.org/2sFsExD

Ocean's 8 Celebration Highlights (High Level Panel): http://on.unesco.org/2uoBugp

The Republic of the Seychelles. Video profile: https://youtu.be/n4Z4xALjmz8

United States of America. Video profile: https://youtu.be/rapGfcZdZFQ

IOC of UNESCO Animation: https://youtu.be/YyiuLwhUpH4


For more information please contact: Vinicius Lindoso (v.lindoso(at)unesco.org)

<- Back to: All news
Back to top