World Ocean Observer - October 2006

Welcome to the World Ocean Observatory

In 1998, The Independent World Commission on the Future of the Oceans, chaired by Mario Soares of Portugal, issued the report, The Ocean: Our Future, its seminal analysis and recommendations for ocean policy in the 21st century.

In the Preface, Soares writes, "We need, therefore, to forge a new ethico-political relationship between humanity and the oceans, a relationship with a political and juridical basis which creates an atmosphere of sharing and solidarity and which provides for new universalism centered on the knowledge of the oceans; a relationship capable of unifying the citizens of the world under one banner, a common, unique and irreplaceable asset: the sea which all the continents share and which to a certain extent equalizes them."

To advance that endeavor, the Commission recommended the creation of a World Ocean Observatory to serve "as a focal point for bringing together relevant information from other sources - official and unofficial -- including inter-governmental, governmental and non-governmental institutions or networks." At the same time, "the Observatory would serve as an interactive ‘virtual' observation site for all ocean-related information on the World Wide Web, providing direct electronic links to all relevant (public and private) Internet sites."

This letter - and this site - are the first iteration of that recommendation.

The Task is Before Us

We very aware of the important work already performed by others, and we do not intend to duplicate or to compete. Our purpose is to communicate, to establish a central place of exchange for ocean information, education and public discourse.

If we are unique, it is perhaps because of our intent to define the ocean as
an integrated, global, social system, that is, as a complex, synergistic inter-relationship between natural and social systems with critical implication for the future of human health and wealth, indeed, for our very survival.

Thus, we will include a broad range of ocean-related issues as studied and promoted by an equally wide spectrum of organizations and individuals. We will address the ocean and fresh water, sanitation, food production, energy production, transportation, trade, recreation, governance and cultural meaning. We will err to the side of inclusion as evidence of the undeniable connection that the sea brings to almost every aspect of our lives. This is an ambitious undertaking and will never be complete. But we do believe that it will serve to build public awareness worldwide, to advance knowledge of ocean systems at every level, and to illustrate the comprehensive impact that the ocean will continue to exert on our well-being. We will advocate only through responsible, independent information, thereby to foster greater understanding and demonstrated will for adaptation and change.

A Global Partnership

Obviously, we cannot do this alone. We can only succeed if we serve our partners. One such service will be THE WORLD OCEAN DIRECTORY, a comprehensive, indexed listing of organizations of every sort engaged in ocean action. We are building that Directory, piece by piece, but you can help by enlisting your institution and providing correct information and data so that others may discover your work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Our other services will include exhibits, educational resources, examples of innovative ocean actions, profiles of ocean exemplars, media links, publication reviews, and international meetings. Everything we report will be about your achievements.

This letter, The World Ocean Observer, will not provide you with news of our achievements or a digest of other news events. We hope it will provide you focus on a particular aspect of ocean action - about the state of alternative ocean energy technology or nautical archaeology or legal issues or ocean biomedical research. Each of us is an expert in our own field, but in other fields we are neophytes. We intend for this Observer to provide you with a clear, up-to-date, focused overview of an ocean issue about which you need to be better informed. Eventually, an archive of these "position papers" will constitute an informative anthology representative of the breadth of the ocean itself.

We must be useful, and to be so, we will need your input. To begin, will you please click here for the information required to add our website to your Links page? And thereafter do not hesitate to contact us with your ideas and suggestions for expansion and enrichment.

Who is the audience - and how do we reach them?

Every person on earth is touched in some way by the power of the ocean. The recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean was a terrible illustration. But so too are we touched by the influence of the ocean on climate, on the hydrological cycle, on the food we eat, and on the many things we trade and consume. The ocean remains still a place apart, but one that more and more reveals its impact of our daily life and without which we cannot successfully endure.

Thus, all of us live by the sea, and we are connected by currents and ships and bio-chemical phenomena and laws. There remain many unknowns. The World Ocean Observatory audience is everyone: the scientist, the journalist, the policy-maker, the educator, the answerer and, above all, the questioner.

To reach everyone is impossible, but the Internet does provide a powerfully efficient way to reach many. And if we are successful in reaching every member of the collective audience of our partners, we will have reached millions and that is a start...

Join us.

Peter Neill, Director
World Ocean Observatory