Desirable International Cooperation Among Pacific Countries
Co-ordinator, International Affairs
Japan Marine Science and Technology Center
2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yakosuka, Kanagawa, Japan 237
The word "oceanography" is sometimes confusing Historically, it meant the science of seawater, in particular the nature and dynamics of seawater, and this interpretation is still valid today in the narrow scope of physical oceanography. However, scientists expanded their interests into every field of science related to the ocean. Biologists introduced marine biology to learn more about living creatures in the sea and how to effectively utilize marine species as living resources for mankind, and geologists looked at the origin and nature of the seafloor and examined ways of exploiting useful minerals from both seawater and the ocean bottom. Meteorologists dramatically upgraded weather forecasting techniques by applying results of global ocean observations. In 1992, the United Nations Convention in Rio de Janeiro initiated worldwide action to conserve natural environments of the Earth. Since then, every human community has stressed the importance of understanding more about the world ocean, based upon recognition of its role in being the main motive force controlling global environmental changes.
Future Ocean Sciences
The ocean should be considered a key element in controlling global environmental changes. It is not only the biggest heat reservoir on the Earth, but it is also an unlimited energy source. Therefore, future ocean scientific studies should be focused on two main subjects in addition to the traditional areas of marine research.
One of these subjects should be to develop comprehensive research of ocean waters in regard to their being the most influential players in global environmental changes. Although the main research would depend on traditional physical oceanographic studies backed up by global observation, the ways and means of carrying out such investigations are quite different from those of 20 years ago. Data on most ocean surface phenomena can be obtained in almost real-time with wide coverage by utilizing satellite observation techniques. High speed computers can provide enormous amounts of such data to scientists, and super computers enable scientists to develop various sophisticated models. However, the vertical components of oceanic data are still dependent on laborious and time-consuming surface vessel observations. This situation could be solved gradually by using wide deployment of buoy observation networks and satellite data-transmission systems. Advancement of physical oceanographic studies is definitely essential to improve our understanding of global environmental changes.
The second subject of scientific and technological interest in future ocean studies would be how to effectively utilize various sources of natural energy in the ocean. Although many scientists and engineers have long examined the challenges of effective conversion of ocean energy, these studies have unfortunately not succeeded to date. Ocean energy is sustainable and clean. A comprehensive scientific and technological approach is now required to develop knowledge of ocean energy, and to develop the ocean engineering required to utilize it as an unlimited resource. There is no doubt that the dynamics of sea water must be comprehensively studied in this regard.
Every scientific research project can have two approaches: global, and local or regional. For example, physical oceanography demonstrates a global approach in ocean circulation models, and coastal oceanographic research results contribute much toward local development projects of coastal communities. Global oceanographic studies should be strengthened in order to elucidate the mechanisms involved in global environmental changes. However, as mentioned above, although ocean observations by satellite imagery provide real-time data with wide coverage, surface vessel observations are still required to obtain accurate data from specified points.
International cooperation is necessary to implement effective in situ observations by research vessels. The International Indian Ocean Expedition was the first attempt to carry out ocean observation and research through international cooperation. Many young scientists from developing countries in the Indian Ocean were invited to participate in research cruises organized by developed nations (mostly European and North American countries), and they learned marine science through research. This custom of inviting the participation of young researchers from developing countries is still followed when research cruises are planned.