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Document Type

Article

Abstract

The expression “marine scientific research” refers to a variety of scientific disciplines, such as biology, biotechnology, geology, chemistry, physics, geophysics, hydrography, physical oceanography, and ocean drilling and coring, which are dedicated to the study of oceans, marine flora, fauna, and physical boundaries with the solid earth and the atmosphere. The purpose of such research is “to observe, to explain, and eventually to understand sufficiently well how to predict and explain changes in the natural (marine) world.” Marine scientific research thus contributes to the rational exploitation of the sea’s resources, the preservation of the marine environment, safer navigation, and military uses of the sea, as well as the better general understanding of the earth. For example, marine scientific research is germane in the location of oilfields, which allows for the exploitation of offshore oil resources. Also, by helping understand local marine ecosystems, as well as the substances and factors which may affect or endanger them, marine scientific research is essential for the protection and preservation of the marine environment. For example, the sustainable exploitation of a particular stock of fish can only be achieved after sufficient marine scientific research has provided the necessary data to prevent overfishing. Marine scientific research is also used for the study of waves and currents, depth soundings, searches for wrecks, and the overall mapping of the ocean floor, which are essential for the safety of navigation. Similarly, in relation to military uses of the sea, marine scientific research has contributed to the development of the ability to detect submarines. Marine scientific research also contributes to a better understanding of the earth by providing, through geology and geophysics, knowledge of the tectonic movement of the seafloor, submarine topography, terrestrial magnetism and paleomagnetism, gravity, quake and elastic wave, and sedimentation, which help predict tsunamis and earthquakes. Finally, through meteorology and climatology, marine scientific research provides information about the relationship of the oceans and the atmosphere. These, and other uses of marine scientific research, clearly illustrate the fact that such research is essential in many areas that affect the relationship between man and the sea. The roots of the age of ocean discovery can be unearthed from the voyages of scientists aboard the H.M.S. Challenger (1872-1876), who sampled both the ocean floor and water column. However, the true beginning of exploration was marked by the echo sounder and the development of the sonic methods used to trace submarines in the First World War. Currently, food and energy is impacted by the continuation of marine scientific research, and in effect, the future of mankind depends on it. Marine scientific research had been unregulated until the 1950s, when the international community adopted the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf and agreed to the introduction of a legal regime, which called for coastal State consent for the conduct of research on the continental shelf. In 1960, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). The IOC’s purpose is “to promote international cooperation and to coordinate programmes in research, services and capacity building, in order to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of management, sustainable development, the protection of the marine environment, and the decisionmaking processes of its member State[s].” To a certain extent, marine scientific research also falls under the jurisdiction of various other international organizations and bodies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP).

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