Developed following an extensive expert stakeholder consultation process, this issues paper examines the key questions that must be addressed to develop an effective and workable roadmap to close the marine pollution data gap.

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Key takeaways

• Back to Blue’s previous reports highlighted the underappreciated problem of marine chemical pollution and the lack of data on this topic. This issues paper identifies the key questions that must be addressed to develop a practical and workable roadmap to close the marine pollution data gap.
• Back to Blue’s purpose in developing such a roadmap is to understand and reduce the impact of pollution on ocean health and provide an evidence base to galvanise action. To be effective, the process must be firmly grounded in science.
• The roadmap must consider how existing data and knowledge about land, air and freshwater pollution can be leveraged to understand marine pollution better. It must also interoperate with, and not duplicate, existing efforts to build a global, federated, digital architecture of ocean data.
• Digital solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI) and physical technologies such as autonomous underwater vehicles will be powerful tools for filling knowledge gaps. A critical question for the roadmap will be how best to ensure that pollution data are integrated into existing ocean databases and that ocean pollution data systems can interface with technology solutions.
• Back to Blue’s Theory of Change is that high-quality, standardised data can provide decision-makers in government, business and civil society with compelling evidence of the need to address marine pollution. This, in turn, should lead to better policymaking and support business transformation.
• Back to Blue is convening a series of stakeholder workshops to explore these questions throughout 2023 and aims to publish a draft roadmap on closing the marine pollution data gap in early 2024. We invite ocean stakeholders to participate in this process.

About the report

This paper is partly based on research conducted for The Invisible Wave: Getting to zero chemical pollution1 and The zero-pollution ocean: A call to close the evidence gap.2 Readers should refer to these publications for an introduction to the topic.

It is also primarily based on stakeholder interviews, meetings and submissions in response to The Zero-Pollution Ocean. These were conducted and collected between January and April 2023. Back to Blue is extremely grateful to the individuals and organisations who generously contributed submissions and responses via our website. We would also like to thank the many individuals who have shared their time and insights with our team over the past two years, both on and off the record. These discussions have been vital in helping inform and shape this report, as well as the Back to Blue initiative more broadly.

In particular, we would like to thank those individuals who took part in interviews or shared feedback on the draft thematic framework for this report:

  • Pierre Bahurel, chief executive, Mercator Ocean
  • Philippe Bersuder, laboratory head, Marine Environmental Studies Laboratory, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • Sally De Marcellus, electronic information analyst, OECD
  • Florence Descroix-Comanducci, director, IAEA Marine Environment Laboratories, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • Bob Diderich, head of division, Environment Directorate, OECD
  • Jana Friedrich, head of radioecology section, Marine Environment Laboratories, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • Nathalie Girouard, head of division, Environmental Performance and Indicators, OECD
  • Joanna Grudzińska, crisis response co-ordinator, Tech to the Rescue
  • Ivan Haščič, senior economist, OECD
  • Peter Kershaw, member, UN Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP)
  • Linet Kwamboka, consultant, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD)
  • Kenneth Leung, chair professor, environmental toxicology and chemistry, City University of Hong Kong
  • Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive-secretary, Secretariat of the INC for Plastics Pollution, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida, global co-ordinator of chemicals and pollution subprogramme, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Prasad Pant, South Asia director and competence centres director, ZDHC Foundation
  • Peter Pissierssens, head, IOC Project Office for IODE and IOC CD co-ordinator, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO
  • Pierre Quiblier, programme officer and SAICM secretariat, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Lucy Scott, project manager, Ocean InfoHub
  • Jacek Siadkowski, co-founder and chief executive, Tech to the Rescue
  • Anna Silyakova, science lead, HubOcean
  • Graeme Sommerville-Ryan, founder, EyeSea
  • Marius Suteu, chief technology officer, EyeSea
  • Hanqiang Tan, vice-chair, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MPEC), International Maritime Organization (IMO)
  • Koki Takaki, administrator for exposure assessment and Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • David Vousden, chair, UN Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP)
  • Anya Waite, co-chair, Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
  • Amelia Wenger, conservation scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); senior research fellow, University of Queensland

Back to Blue advisory board:

  • Ann Dierckx, director of sustainability, CEFIC
  • Naoko Ishii, director, Centre for the Global Commons, University of Tokyo
  • Pascal Lamy, president, Paris Peace Forum
  • Kilaparti Ramakrishna, senior advisor on ocean and climate policy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
  • Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO
  • Elsie Sunderland, professor of environmental science and engineering, Harvard University

Any errors or omissions remain our own.


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