// Open Letter – June 2021

A Call to Action on World Oceans Day

We have arrived at a pivotal moment for our oceans. The United Nations has declared 2021 to 2030 to be a Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. During this Oceans Decade, the UN is encouraging governments around the world to work collaboratively with researchers and companies in the applied ocean technology field to develop ideas, solutions, partnerships, and applications that will reverse the cycle of decline in marine health and create improved conditions for sustainable development of our world’s oceans.

To meet these goals, the private sector will play a key role in developing and sharing new technologies, but it will also benefit from the expansion of access to cutting-edge tools, information, and investment needed to create solutions for ocean sustainability and the blue economy. That is why on this World Oceans Day, we are calling on the United States and governments worldwide to increase their investment in the innovation of blue technology and the data it can provide to play a crucial role in helping meet our sustainability and climate-related goals.

Take, for example illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which reports indicate accounts for roughly 30 percent of the global fish catch and has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat according to U.S. Coast Guard’s 2020 IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook. The U.S. alone imported $2.4 billion in illegally fished seafood in 2019 and the International Trade Commission found that over 13 percent of wild-caught seafood imports globally were derived from illegal fishing. Adding to these concerns is the fact that nearly 90 percent of global fisheries are either fully exploited or overexploited and depleted. IUU fishing puts already vulnerable fish populations at greater risk of collapse while diminishing the food supply and livelihoods of coastal communities dependent on fisheries.

Technology developed by the private sector, however, can help monitor large swaths of the ocean using very little manpower to detect IUU fishing activity and protect marine biodiversity. These technologies allow agencies to identify “dark vessels” operating with their Automatic Identification System turned off and can help them better identify probable illegal activity, enabling countries to patrol and enforce their waters more effectively and efficiently. At the same time, autonomous drones and buoys equipped with cameras, recorders, and other monitoring equipment can send real-time images back to agencies to help with identification and protection against IUU fishing.

Maritime domain awareness and shoreline border security represent a daunting challenge considering the vast areas to be monitored, weather-related access limitations and the considerable amount of manpower required. Yet eliminating illegal activities is more important than ever as the severe and negative consequences such issues inflict on impacted countries’ economies, security, and overall national well-being worsen.

Along with combatting illegal fishing, technology developed by the private sector can also help the U.S. meet its conservation and biodiversity goals by more effectively enforcing its marine protected areas (MPAs). These areas exist on maps and in legislation but do not have ongoing, strong enforcement and protections like the country’s national parks. While we have made enormous strides in recent years in protecting waters around the world, many marine protected areas are remote and require consistent surveillance to ensure adequate enforcement to meet marine biodiversity goals.

Many countries do not have the resources to fully patrol and enforce their waters: to this end, the private sector can offer technological support behind identifying and prosecuting non-compliant activities that threaten protected ecosystems. Many new technologies are already available to help governments enforce their MPAs. Autonomous solar-powered drones, wave-powered buoys, and other low- or zero-carbon technologies can help monitor and enforce these protected areas by notifying vessels where the MPA boundary lies and sending real-time data back to agencies with actionable intelligence and information.

Governments and the private sector can also work together to grow and enhance the blue economy, from combining geochemical and oceanographic data with novel ocean exploration and characterization information to better identify potential sites for renewable energy projects to using this data to support the safe passage of commercial vessels into and out of ports from Los Angeles to Shanghai.

These blue technologies and solutions have the power to address the greatest challenges facing our oceans, from reducing operational costs to increasing unattended surveillance sensors and monitoring technology deployment, and sustaining in-ocean operation, all while providing real-time communication, processing, and data-transmission capabilities. These steps will be crucial for the U.S. — and other countries around the globe — to meet the moment and make our world’s oceans more sustainable and healthier.


Ocean Power Technologies
International Ocean Science & Technology Industry Association (IOSTIA)

28 Engelhard Drive, Suite B
Monroe Township, NJ 08831
+1 609 730 0400

12848 Queensbury Lane
Suite 208, Office 119
Houston, Texas 77024

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