Marine related research, policy and industry representatives came together to discuss effective North-South Atlantic Ocean collaboration during a session on "Trans North Atlantic Research and Prospects for South Atlantic Partnership", which took place immediately before the high-level ministerial and scientific event "A New Era of Blue Enlightenment" on 12 July 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal.

The EU Horizon 2020 project ATLAS, along with sister projects SponGES, and MERCES, organised the session hosted by Prof Ricardo Serrão Santos, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). The session reconfirmed commitment on international marine scientific research efforts, in both the North and South Atlantic. Presentations also noted efforts by regional fisheries management organisations to implement the United Nation's General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions on managing high seas fisheries to protect and conserve deep-sea ecosystems and species.

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Commissioner Carlos Moedas is hosting a High-Level Ministerial and Scientific event on 12-14 July 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal, joined by high-level government representatives from Brazil and South Africa, as well as from the European Union. The event is celebrating the launch of the South Atlantic Flagship Initiative between the European Union, Brazil and South Africa, aiming to better understand and protect marine ecosystems and the link between oceans and climate. A Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Cooperation between the European Union, Brazil and South Africa is planned to be signed during the event.

The Belem Statement (to be signed today in the Belem Tower – Thursday 13 July) builds on bilateral achievements between the EU, South Africa and Brazil to take ocean cooperation to a new level. It is a landmark partnership for excellency in science technology and innovation. HE Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Science Technology and Innovation launched today's proceedings. Her Excellency Minister Naledi Pandor (Minister of Science and Technology for South Africa) in her welcome speech today emphasised the importance of this initiative as a contribution to putting the SDGs into practice ' making sure no one is left behind'.

As part of the is event, ATLAS organised a workshop, held on 12 July Trans North Atlantic research and prospects for South Atlantic partnership”

Hosted by Prof. Ricardo Serrao Santos, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), this Trans-Atlantic workshop outlined present and emerging issues in Atlantic basin-scale research and governance. The session began with introductions to three EU H2020 projects funded in the North Atlantic: ATLAS, SponGES and MERCES before moving on to promote dialogue with partners in the South Atlantic. Research experiences in the South Atlantic from perspectives of the Rio Grande Rise and SEMPiA process were discussed; Matt Gianni presented on the management of Atlantic deep-water fisheries and David Johnson provided an overview of ocean-scale marine governance issues that connect research themes between the North and South Atlantic. Panel discussion picked up both on specific issues addressed and the wider strategic importance of integrated North and South Atlantic programmes for scientific understanding and international governance.

PrepCom4, the fourth and most likely final meeting of the Preparatory Committee for ocean biodiversity established by the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA), will convene from 10-21 July 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York. This session aims to finalise a set of substantive recommendations to inform negotiations on a legally binding instrument on the “conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ)” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), UNGA resolution 69/292 from 2015.

The EU-funded ATLAS project has set out to understand deep Atlantic ecosystems, including ABNJ, and how human society appreciates and values them. Balancing the needs of society and exploring sustainable economic Blue Growth with a long-term strategy that maintains ocean ecosystems for generations to come is a serious challenge. ATLAS is therefore particularly interested in contributing to two of the total of four ‘package’ topics for the Preparatory Committee: marine genetic resources, and conservation and management tools.

Along with the other two package topics (governance, and capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology) the recommendations at the end of the PrepCom4 meeting will feed into the above mentioned legally binding instrument. Making progress in addressing these issues requires the integration of the best available scientific advice on different ocean scales and ecosystems.

Several ATLAS partners have already contributed to the previous PrepCom sessions held during 2016 and 2017, and will continue their efforts during PrepCom4 to raise awareness of the importance of including deep-sea science. Scientists have shown that the deep North Atlantic supports diverse ecosystems which are crucial to the cycling of primary production, carbon, and nutrients from the ocean surface to the deep seafloor. These diverse deep-water ecosystems provide us with goods and services, including fisheries and biotechnology opportunities, which are central to our well-being and have great potential for future economic activities.

The PrepCom4 meeting marks a key point in a very long and historic process to protect biodiversity in ABNJ under UNCLOS. With growing pressure for an effective and comprehensive global regime to better address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of ABNJ, these efforts to develop a legally binding instrument are very timely.

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