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Humans have been attracted to the Ocean from time immemorial. More and more people are moving to coastal areas and trying to make a living there. Almost 65% of the world’s population now live on or near the coast, and people in developing countries, in particular, are heavily dependent on the sea for their food. Meanwhile, the exponential increase in human activity is placing mounting pressure on natural resources in coastal areas and the deeper seas adjoining them.

A sensible approach to the sea

Several multilateral organisations play a key coordinating role in ensuring a sustainable future for our oceans' natural resources. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is the main mechanism responsible for coordinating Ocean Sciences. Its remit complements those of other multilateral organisations. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) focuses mainly on the land, including coastal areas, while the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) oversees the management of natural resources (including fisheries). One of the IOC’s priorities is to develop guidance for the implementation of Integrated Coastal Area Management (ICAM) and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) globally. An important component of this endeavour is developing an efficient data and information network in consultation with local and regional stakeholders. This is the cornerstone of one of the IOC’s major programmes: International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE). IODE contributes significantly to the spread of global knowledge about the seas and the Ocean. It also works – in close collaboration with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) – to develop international standards and protocols, and safeguards free and open access to ocean data and information. Finally, it provides instruments that support data management for regional and large international programmes, enabling member states to access a global network of databases.



The Government of Flanders, through FUST, is currently supporting the following 4 large-scale projects (phase IV, 2014-2018)

OceanTeacher Global Academy (OTGA)

The OceanTeacher Global Academy (OTGA) Project aims at building equitable capacity related to ocean research, observations and services in all IOC Member States. The regional implementation strategy makes training programmes self-driven with great attention to local requirements, language and culture. OTGA is based on local ownership as the Regional Training Centres (RTCs) are supported by the host countries. In addition, the OceanTeacher Global Academy validates the expertise available in developing regions and promotes their self-reliance in terms of specialized technical training and higher education related to ocean science, observation and data/information management.

More Information: OTGA

Website: The OceanTeacher


Southeast Pacific data and information network in support to integrated coastal area management (SPINCAM)

SPINCAM was designed to establish an integrated coastal area management (ICAM) indicator framework at the national and regional level in the countries of the Southeast Pacific region focusing on the state of the coastal and marine environment, including socio-economic conditions. SPINCAM is providing the right tools (data, information, indicators, atlases, decision-support tools) to apply the ecosystem-based approaches such as marine spatial planning in their national waters, while also providing a foundation for planning sustainable economic development (blue growth) through inter-institutional capacity-building. The project results will translate into concrete recommendations and strategies at the regional level in line with Agenda 2030.

More Information: SPINCAM

Project Website: SPINCAM


Caribbean Marine Atlas (CMA2)

The CMA is an online digital platform that supports integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and ecosystem-based management for Large Marine Ecosystems in the Wider Caribbean region - mainly the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (the CLME+ Region). The Atlas is supporting the implementation of the CLME+ Strategic Action Programme. Special attention is paid to coastal hazards, climate change and biodiversity, as well as habitats, fisheries and pollution – the three main transboundary problems identified in the CLME+ Region. CMA brings together 25 countries, 7 of which are actively providing ICZM national information and data for regional indicators. CMA currently holds more than 800 GIS layers. The Atlas is addressed to professionals in charge of planning and development, ministries and national and regional authorities, decision and policymakers.

More Information: CMA2

Project Website: CMA2


Development of Information Products and Services for Ocean Assessments (DIPS-4-Ocean Assessments)

DIPS develops information products and services based on the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) and the Harmful Algae Event Database (HAEDAT) with the aim to support major global assessments on the state of the marine environment, such as the UN World Ocean Assessment and those that are planned as part of the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the IOC-UNESCO Global Harmful Algal Bloom Status Report.

More Information:DIPS-4-OCEAN

Website: DIPS-4-Ocean Assessments


During phase III (2009-2013) following projects were supported

Fourth Phase of the Ocean Data and Information Network for Africa (ODINAFRICA-IV) [an IODE project]

OceanTeacher Academy [an IODE project]

Southeast Pacific Data and Information Network in Support to Integrated Coastal Area Management (SPINCAM) [an ICAM project with cooperation from IODE]

Caribbean Marine Atlas (CMA) [an IODE project]


Flanders supports IODE

[based upon article "Flanders Supports the "S" in UNESCO", EWI review, No2, October 2007 by Rudy Herman]

Flanders decided to support the IODE programme through FUST (2003-2007 phase, US$ 4.15 million, then equivalent to around €3.32 million), focusing particularly on the Ocean Data and Information Network (ODIN). This package of activities promotes close cooperation between two major IOC programmes: Integrated Coastal Area Management and the operational Global Ocean Observing System. When launching the Ocean Data and Information Networks, the UNESCO/IOC Secretariat secured the necessary commitment from all the member states involved with regard to data centre infrastructure and staff. At the same time, the IOC undertook the required capacity building in member states by organising on-the-job training. Flanders’ input in this respect was crucial, not least because the UNESCO/ IOC Project Office for IODE began operating in Ostend in April 2005. projectoffice_outside_400Since this UNESCO expertise centre was set up, 800 experts from 97 IOC member states have received specialist training. Uniformly trained experts are vital for developing data networks according to international standards. This on-the-job training resulted in the accelerated development and launch of new ODINS around the world, based on the successful pilot network ODINAFRICA and its successor ODINCARSA. In total, six ODIN networks have been developed and are now up and running.

The European SeaDataNet (including the IODE Project Office as a partner), which comprises 49 data centres in 36 countries, works closely with the ODINs. One of IODE’s key tasks is to supply targeted information and products to other IOC programmes. This information and data flow are also streamlined with the activities of other IOC programmes and harmonised with data flows from other organisations such as the WMO and UNEP, resulting in joint activities and products. This can best be illustrated with a few examples.

Obvious benefits

Thanks to structural support from FUST, the IOC was able to develop its first uniform Ocean Data and Information Network at the continental level: ODINAFRICA. Within this process, a major priority was establishing and strengthening regional centres for information and data management to support integrated coastal zone management. As a pilot network, ODINAFRICA fulfilled a number of needs and priorities reported to UNESCO by the African member states. Until 1999, there were only four Africansealevel_images operational measuring stations supplying data to the Global Sea-Level Observing System (GLOSS). Today, GLOSS has around 300 stations that monitor changes in sea level at both regional and global levels. Thanks to ODINAFRICA, Africa now figures prominently on GLOSS’s world map. A Pan-African coastal observing system has also been developed, based on a network of 30 or so tide gauges. Through ODINAFRICA a GLOSS-Africa website has also been established.

Another example of ODINAFRICA output is the African Marine Atlas (AMA), an interactive web application allowing several data layers to be viewed in superposition. AMA can provide such layered data at both local and continental levels. For example, it shows the location of all measuring points for the Marine Species Database for Eastern Africa: MASDEA was set up with the assistance of the VLIZ and is now a fully-fledged ODINAFRICA activity.

Through this integrated approach, ODINAFRICA is helping to underpin the sustainable protection of Africa’s coastal regions and marine environment. It also fulfils some of the ambitions set out in the marine and coastal resources section of the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) Environment Initiative. Inclusion in NEPAD ensures that all stakeholders have a real say on the marine environment, including the private sector, policymakers and the education sector. With FUST being part of the EWI Science Sharing Programme, Flanders - in collaboration with UNESCO - is making a significant contribution (€1.437 million in 2007) to the development of a sustainable policy for Africa’s coastal regions.