WESTPAC should spearhead efforts to bolster regional networks and programmes to ensure a unified, cohesive response to the vital issues related to marine science and sustainability in the region. This was one of the main recommendations of the group assigned to provide scientific and technical advice to WESTPAC at a recent meeting in Phuket.
All members of the WESTPAC Advisory Group and invited regional experts met from 1-3 December 2014 in the southern Thai province to review WESTPAC’s current strategic direction and activities, evaluate new project proposals, and devise concrete action plans for the body’s strategic and programmatic development.
The advisory group’s discussions covered both WESTPAC’s current strategic direction as well as topics pertaining to the body’s financial and human resources.
Some of the key recommendations for WESTPAC coming out of the meeting were:
- Developing a regional program to research and monitor the ecological impact of ocean acidification. This is caused by carbon dioxide emissions being dissolved into the oceans and represents a major threat to coral reefs and other calcifying marine organisms around the world. Too little is known about the ecological effects of acidification and as such the group unanimously recommended that a regional program be developed to monitor the situation;
- Developing the Indo-Pacific Ocean Observations and Services Network (IPON) with the aim of “a healthy and safe ocean for prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region”, following the call from the 9th WESTPAC International Scientific Symposium (May 2014, Nha Trang, Vietnam);
- Strengthening the development of the IOC Regional Network of Training and Research Centers on Marine Science to enhance institutional capacities of countries in the region to address critical challenges to sustainable development;
- Preparing the agenda for the coming WESTPAC’s Tenth Intergovernmental Session. This session will bring together representatives from relevant government agencies and members of the scientific community aiming to build bridges between science and policy, advance international cooperation in marine science, observations and services.
Dr Youn-Ho Lee, Chair of the WESTPAC Advisory Group, who opened the meeting, thanked Mr Wenxi Zhu, Head of the UNESCO/IOC Regional Office for WESTPAC for work in developing and coordinating WESTPAC programmes as well as to all staff involved in the meeting’s successful arrangement.
Participants expressed their appreciation for the contributions made by the WESTPAC office and marine scientists in member countries and agreed to continue to work together to implement WESTPAC activities going forward.