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From: Guest Contributor, Jeff Pomeroy
Published June 2, 2014 11:25 AM

UNESCO and the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing Join Forces in Ocean Conservation Effort

Last Friday at the United Nations in New York, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing (FNOB) took major steps toward Ocean Conservation by presenting their joint commitment for ocean research. The announcement comes just two days before the start of the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona transatlantic sailing race.

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With members of the sailing community already acting as agents of sustainable use and protection of the world’s seas and oceans and with climate change listed as one of the key priorities of the member organizations of the United Nations for the 2015-16 agenda, this partnership represents an unprecedented alliance between the sailing and scientific communities. The partnership is part of ongoing efforts of UNESCO IOC to build a knowledge base about the oceans and coastal areas and to apply this knowledge to improve the protection and sustainable management of the marine environment and to promote sustainable communities. 

The formation of this partnership started at the 2011 Barcelona World Race; a two-handed, non-stop around the world race. During the race the teams pledged to collect data in the Southern Ocean, an area for which data is still lacking. The region is considered key in monitoring climate change. 

Vibeke Jensen, Director of the UNESCO Office in New York, led the announcement along with Mathieu Belbeoch of IOC-UNESCO, Maite Fandos, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona and President of the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing, and world-renowned sailor Jean-Pierre Dick.

The scope of the partnership includes teams collecting data on surface temperatures and salinity, as well as meteorological data to be analyzed by the international ocean research network; Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) during the next Barcelona World Race that starts on December 31, 2014. Each crew will also deploy an Argo float in little-travelled waters between Cape Good of Hope and Cape Horn to help track data for climate change research. An Argo float is an approximately 30kg float that can in real time transmit data on ocean temperature, currents and salinity. There are approximately 3,600 drifting profiling floats in the ocean right now. 

Mathieu Belbeoch said, "The partnership between UNESCO and FNOB will first organize a major conference at the end of the year and report on very import climate change, plastic pollution, acidification et cetera, but this partnership will also change each of the skippers to see the ocean with another look. What is important as a skipper is reaching remote places that don't see many ships, south of the three capes and 50-55 degrees south is important for us to deploy units. So this race gives us a unique opportunity to put these instruments in the ocean. In addition, the skippers will also help us to tell the story and humanize the science side of what we do. In addition to the floats, the ambassador ship of the race will be equipped with a weather station to transmit real time weather information to the teams racing so there will be a benefit to the skippers. Overall, this will be a real opportunity will be a real tangible gain to science and marine observation and UNESCO is really glad to realize this long-term partnership."

French sailor, Jean-Pierre Dick, explained why this initiative is important to him as not only a sailor, but as a citizen of the world. "I have a lot of requests when I discuss with people about what I do, do you see some weather changes? To be honest I have been sailing the last 12 years doing six world tours and it is true I am a real witness of the globe and the earth and especially at sea and as I am a scientist by formation, but it is very difficult for me to answer this question. Because the timing, 12 years is quite short in the earth’s duration and also it's difficult because 10 years ago we are going more south in the southern ocean, so it is like comparing pears and apples because we are not passing through the same areas. 

So this is why I am very happy about this UNESCO project because we are going to have real data and this is not a single observation done by only one project, but it is 1,000 floats every year that are gathering information. The fact that skippers can help the system and put floats in a remote area is a key and interesting participation that we can do. And on a long-term basis, to predict climate change is very important to us not only as a skipper but also as a human being, I think it’s a key area of today, so it’s important that we try to do work that can help explain what’s going on."

Skippers will deploy floats and collect data when the Barcelona World Race gets underway on December 31, 2014.

Start of IMOCA Ocean Masters NY-BCN Race image credit: © Onne van der Wal / Sea&Co, Contact: thierry@thmartinez.com - Tel Office (FRA): + 33 2 97 57 43 56 - http://www.seaandco.net 

 

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