The Nippon Foundation – GEBCO Forum for Future Ocean Floor Mapping

Monaco, Principality of Monaco

GEBCO’s association with Monaco goes back to 1903, when Prince Albert the First, inaugurated the GEBCO chart series. As you all know he is the father of modern oceanography and the great-great-grandfather of His Serene Highness who has succeeded in carrying on his wishes and is a great supporter of GEBCO. Your Serene Highness, it is truly an honor and privilege to have your presence at this Forum.

Unfortunately, the state of the world’s oceans has declined to a level that was inconceivable at the beginning of the last century. Problems such as climate change, pollution, loss of marine biodiversity are all intertwined and influencing one another negatively. Tackling each of them separately is no longer effective. Instead, we need to take comprehensive and interdisciplinary measures.

Bathymetric data is of particular importance as basic information in confronting these challenges. However, surveyed data including that of submarine topography is very limited. We currently know only about fifteen percent of the ocean floor. Added to that, it is hard to believe that there are still areas where data has not been updated since the era of Captain James Cook. Ironically, we know much more about Mars’ surface, 75 million kilometers from the Earth today, than about the ocean floor.(!)

Unless we know what the ocean floor looks like, we cannot accurately predict resource distribution or execute navigation safety measures effectively. I am convinced that if we are to strive toward sustainable development, improving bathymetric map is critical. And I believe that GEBCO can play a major role in this.

As introduced by Chairman Tani earlier, The Nippon Foundation has worked with GEBCO in carrying out a fellowship program to train a new generation of ocean professionals in bathymetry since 2004. To date, 72 scholars from 33 nations have completed the training course. The majority of the fellows have returned to their home countries and are continuously discussing how they could contribute to GEBCO.

However, such activities have mainly been voluntary. There are fellows who, due to their work, are not able to be part of the exchanges. Yet each of our fellows is a valuable intellectual asset possessing outstanding knowledge and skill and can contribute to sea floor topography research. Their continued interactions is one of the key factors that would strengthen them to exert their talents. Not to use these assets would mean a major loss to our future oceans. Do you not agree that in order for the alumni to join forces together to face this major challenge that confronts us today, we need to establish a stable platform for our young scientists.

I am therefore announcing today, the creation of The Nippon Foundation – GEBCO Alumni Association for all scholars from the programme. This platform will enable the following three actions:

First, to promote mapping in adjacent coastal countries not currently involved,

Second, to execute interdisciplinary capacity building workshops, which will support the career development of alumni,

Third, to promote the work of GEBCO to a wider audience. I hope our alumni present here today will make the most of this new platform and become a driving force for GEBCO to contribute to the future of world oceans.

Allow me to take this opportunity to convey one more message. The progress of information technology is greatly changing the way we live today. Now we can all see the latest satellite images on our smartphones or tablets. Collaboration between information technology and various other fields will continue to change the world.

Against this backdrop, GEBCO, an assembly of highly specialized information and technology, has a new role to fill. Bathymetric data, which is the basic information infrastructure of our oceans, is currently used by many but not available in a format that is convenient for all users. We do not have a mechanism that enables the enhancement of linkages between the users. Moreover, there are many more potential users and stakeholders who are unaware of the existence of GEBCO and the bathymetric data that it offers.

Today, we have a room full of remarkable skills and experiences. We have a variety of experts from fields including fisheries, information technology, mineral exploration and development, and maritime industries. We also have representatives from the academia, governments, and international organizations.

I believe that collaboration across multiple fields will open up new possibilities for the management and protection of the world’s oceans. And collaboration of different disciplines will lead to innovative solutions to the ocean’s complex problems.

GEBCO can start off by sharing bathymetric data in a form that can be understood by everyone. I would like to see the deepening of exchanges between sectors that have not yet worked with each other. I feel that active outreach is essential to enable new users to discover that there is a huge potential to apply the valuable knowledge GEBCO has to their own respective fields.

The Nippon Foundation has always strived to be an organization that takes on new challenges facing humanity and the world’s oceans. The Nippon Foundation, together with GEBCO, will use all of our collaborative efforts to reveal 100% of the ocean floor by 2030, of which we currently only know about 15%. It is not an easy task but if we can solicit your cooperation we will be able to realize this goal.

More than a century ago, Prince Albert the First dreamt of discovering man’s unknown frontier of the world’s oceans. This project is the embodiment of this daring dream. Prince Albert the First was a man of great foresight into the future of humanity and our planet. He took an important initiative to reveal the ocean floor recognizing the importance of understanding of our oceans. This has been succeeded by His Serene Highness who devotes himself to the world’s oceans. We must realize the vision and passion of their Highnesses and do our utmost to pass on bountiful and sustainable oceans to future generations.