Mercator Ocean International returns to the “Forum Mondial de la Mer-Bizerte”

On 22 September 2023, Mercator Ocean International (MOi) participated once again in the Forum Mondial de la Mer-Bizerte (World’s Sea Forum-Bizerte) – in its 6th edition. MOi’s Director General Pierre Bahurel presented during the session “Geopolitics of the oceans: what scenarios for 2050?” calling for more cooperation and investments in Ocean knowledge and digital infrastructure to give the global community the tools to face challenges like rising Ocean temperatures.

The Forum takes its name from the coastal city of Bizerte, Tunisia, which has been hosting the annual event since its inauguration in 2018. International experts, scientists and politicians gathered to discuss the Ocean and the Mediterranean in the ”era of global boiling”.

Reaching a boiling point 

With July 2023 marked as the « hottest July ever »  by the scientific community, summer Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres stated that the world is moving into an era of « global boiling« . The 6th edition of the Forum Mondial de la Mer revolved around this stark warning, as the effects of climate change are putting on full display the vulnerability of the Mediterranean Sea and the global Ocean.

Over the northern hemisphere summer, MOi reported on the unprecedented record-high  sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic, severe marine heatwaves in the Mediterranean Sea and significant drops in sea-ice extent in the Antarctic region. In April 2023, the highest record global sea surface temperature was measured at above 21°C, and while sea surface temperatures dropped slightly, they remained at record-high levels globally for typical temperatures observed during May and June over the global Ocean. 

On a favourable note, after two decades of multilateral negotiations, this year also marked the adoption of the long-sought Agreement on the High Seas Treaty by the United Nations, finally paving the way for the establishment of marine protected areas beyond territorial waters. Together with the successful global discussions to end plastic pollution and other milestones, the High Seas Treaty signals a rising awareness of the danger posed by the human impact on marine resources and biodiversity. But while extremely important, continued fast and collaborative action is to meet targets, for example the Sustainable Development Goal 14 to Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

The event was produced through La Saison Bleue under the direction of Rym Benzina (founding member of La Saison Bleue) and Pascal Lamy, President of the Forum and Chair of the EU Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters” and their team. The Forum brought together leaders from across the world, including Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, French Ambassador for the Poles and Maritime Issues, Catherine Chabaud, Navigator and Member of the European Parliament and Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO.

A roadmap to 2050

Linking to the previous year’s edition of the Forum, the “Ocean 2050” group of international experts, of which MOi Director General Pierre Bahurel is a part, renewed its commitment to the original roadmap launched in 2022, reflecting on the developments that marked the past year and issuing renewed recommendations.

How Mercator Ocean drives innovation in ocean science and supports ocean governance

MOi plays a pivotal role in advancing Ocean governance worldwide and provides scientific expertise and digital solutions to advance Ocean-related goals and commitments through multifaceted contributions. At the forefront of this effort, MOi lends its full expertise to the European Commission in the development of the future European Digital Twin of the Ocean. Currently being developed through several EU-funded projects, this powerful replica of the ocean using real-time and historical data will be able to simulate “what-if” scenarios (like examining extreme marine heatwaves), allowing scientists andstakeholders to make decisions based on data and prediction methods.

Furthermore, MOi was selected by the IOC-UNESCO to host the OceanPrediction Decade Collaborative Centre (OceanPrediction DCC). This centre acts as an incubator and co-design mechanism, driving the advancement of ocean data processing, forecasting, and modelling, culminating in a vision for the digital twin of the Ocean. MOi’s commitment to providing Ocean data and knowledge extends to its role as the implementor of the Copernicus Marine Service, which provides a wealth of global marine data (historical, near real-time, and forecasts) that is freely accessible worldwide, ensuring the democratization of vital information for ocean-related decision making.

In another demonstration of its work in driving progress and innovation in ocean knowledge and governance, MOi implements EU4OceanObs. It is a project working to catalyse essential partnerships between European and international infrastructures and programmes across the Ocean observing value chain with the goal of increasing Ocean observing, data sharing, and use of Ocean data to meet EU needs and interests.

Discover more on the projects and initiatives of Mercator Ocean International on this page.

Additional Resources

Read the synthesis document of this year’s Forum Mondial de La Mer-Bizerte
Read our article on the 2022 edition of the Forum