Experts argue that the oceanic genome offers opportunities and encourage its preservation
The oceanic genome comprises the genetic resources present in all marine biodiversity. These resources have a high potential for biotechnological applications with commercial interest, however they are threatened by several factors, from overexploitation to the loss and degradation of habitats, pollution and the impact of climate change. The alert was given by a group of international experts, which includes Portuguese researchers Adelino Canário (CCMAR) and Narcisa Bandarra (IPMA).
Adelino Canário, researcher and Centre for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) Board Director, and Professor at the University of Algarve, is one of the contributing authors of a recently published article on “The Ocean Genome: Conservation and the Fair, Equitable and Sustainable Use of Marine Genetic Resources”. The CCMAR researcher is part of the International Panel of Experts in Sustainable Economy of the Oceans, which includes 14 countries that are actively working to find solutions for the many problems that the Ocean faces.
The ocean genome is the foundation upon which all marine ecosystems rest. Marine life is incredibly diverse and comprises a minimum of 2.2 million existing marine species, and about 90% remain undescribed.
In addition to its huge and rich biodiversity, rapid advances in sequencing and bioinformatics technologies have enabled the exploration of the oceanic genome. These new findings are informing innovative approaches to conservation and a growing number of commercial biotechnology applications, from anticancer treatments to cosmetics and industrial enzymes.
The ocean genome is threatened by overexploitation, habitat loss and degradation, pollution, impacts from a changing climate, invasive species and other pressures, as well as their cumulative effects.
This paper takes a holistic approach to evaluate the prospects for conservation and sustainable use of the ocean genome. It does this by analysing our understanding of the genetic diversity of life within the ocean, the threats posed to such diversity, the benefits provided by genetic diversity and the ecosystems it supports in the context of a changing world, as well as tools and approaches to protect it. It also establishes the need for greater equity through capacity building and the promotion of inclusive innovation and accessible technologies.
The authors provide guidelines to ensure smart conservation and sustainable and equitable use of the ocean genome, based on the conservation and ensuring fair and equitable sharing of these benefits.
Framed by the United Nations discussion on biodiversity in areas outside national jurisdiction (BBNJ), this will be an opportunity to put on the agenda of politicians and decision-makers the urgent need to ensure that the oceanic genome is protected and put the expert's recommendations underway so that the benefits for humanity can be distributed to all.
The experts point out opportunities for action that aim to create marine protected areas, which cover 30% of the oceans; support equitable knowledge transfer of genomics; ensure that intellectual property standards support this purpose of balancing and sharing knowledge; assess risks and benefits of new technologies and molecular biology practices applied to the marine environment; and, finally, to demand more financial and political support in order to improve knowledge and sharing of the ocean genome.
This paper is part of a series of 16 “Blue papers” that are being published until June 2020 and summarises the latest science and state-of-the-art thinking, concerning technology, policy, governance and finance.
The paper was launched last April 17th, and next Friday, an online conference is scheduled with the main authors, who will be available to answer the most relevant questions on the topic “The Ocean Genome: Challenges and Opportunities”.
Further information and links
Blue Paper Ocean Genome Webinar: Friday, 24 of April 2020 4pm. Register
High Level Panel
Established in September 2018, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP) is a unique initiative of 14 serving heads of government committed to catalysing bold, pragmatic solutions for ocean health and wealth that support the Sustainable Development Goals and build a better future for people and the planet. By working with governments, experts and stakeholders from around the world, the HLP aims to develop a road map for rapidly transitioning to a sustainable ocean economy and to trigger, amplify and accelerate responsive action worldwide.
The Expert Group consists of experienced researchers and policy analysts from around the world, identified by the members of the High Level Panel for their exemplary contributions to the full range of ocean-related disciplines being considered in the work of the High Level Panel.
The group is tasked to provide and review relevant research and scientific input and propose practical solutions to the questions and challenges raised by the High Level Panel. Members of the Expert Group will also contribute to and help review the Panel’s final report, associated sub-report Blue Papers, and other documents.