South Pacific Observatory Project

Subsea observatory in the South Pacific and its surrounding ocean:
Scientific frontiers and technical challenges

Workshop Sumary & Project Foundations

A first ‘Maritime Dialogue’ Seminar on “Enhancing a Maritime Cooperative Relationship between France and Japan” (13-14 December 2018), with reference to three Franco-Japanese and international workshops (2015, 2017, 2018) and led to a recommendation towards a Franco-Japanese scientific collaboration project on ocean observation in the South Pacific Ocean (here after Observatory Project).

Recalling the joint communiqué issues by the 2+2 Franco-Japanese ministries in January 2019, both nations affirmed their willingness to strengthen the dialogue in the Pacific region, as well as “to encourage the development of concrete initiative in important issues of seas and oceans, such as ocean governance, science & innovation, environment (plastic pollutions), blue economy, maritime security and technological & industrial collaborations.” The Observatory Project initiative could consolidate the long-standing maritime cooperation between the two countries as well as tackle challenges set by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and underpin the roadmap of UN Decade of Ocean Science.

New Caledonian waters are internationally recognized for their outstanding high diversity of habitats, variety of life, and general good health, from the deep seafloor to the surface and lagoon. This diversity capitalizes on the contrasted nature and depth of its seafloor, from subduction zone to seamounts and plateaus, and on a complex tropical oceanography. In 2014, the New Caledonia Government decided to enact the Coral Sea Natural Park, covering its entire EEZ as a multi-use large marine protected area, hence making New Caledonia a potential field laboratory for sustainable maritime development in the South Pacific. With such a vision of a sustainable blue economy including oceanic technology development, and because of the vitality of its research ecosystems including IRD, IFREMER, the New Caledonia University and CNRS, New Caledonia was naturally proposed to be at the heart of this project.

As a starter to this long term collaborative project, it was decided to brainstorm scientific questions through a scientific workshop, to take place in Nouméa, New Caledonia on 19-20 September 2019.

The main objective of this workshop is to gather scientific, technological and socio-economic actors and consider the scientific and social drivers to define the scientific & technological objectives of the Observatory Project. The workshop aims at bringing together scientists from a large diversity of community that will have the opportunity to express their needs for ocean observations, associated technologies, data management systems etc. This community will benefit from data generated by the observatory when operational.

Agreed upon the 2018 workshop on deep sea big data for sustainable development (DOORS), the Observatory Project should:

(i) raise awareness for decision-makers and local communities and aim for an inclusive operation;

(ii) aim to improve our knowledge of deep sea biological and mineral resources;

(iii) create opportunities for innovation;

(iv) emphasize on image acquisition & processing and benefit from this resource to empower local public engagement in ocean actions.

It is expected by the end of the workshop to present a list of variables to be observed to address key scientific questions, relevant to the New Caledonian community.