Knowledge of the seafloor in Marine Spatial Planning and Blue Economy processes in the Southeast Pacific

An MSPglobal online technical seminar organized on 22 September 2020 highlighted the importance of knowledge of the seafloor in Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) processes and in support of Sustainable Blue Economy strategies in the Southeast Pacific.

From the shallow waters of coastal areas to the deep ocean, knowing the depth and shape of the seafloor is fundamental to understanding the main economic and environmental dimensions related to MSP. These include ocean circulation, fisheries resources, sediment transport, cable and pipeline laying, mineral extraction, oil and gas industry exploration and development, infrastructure construction and maintenance (e.g., offshore wind farms), shipping and much more.

National experts from Colombia and Peru shared the scientific and technical capacity of their countries in the development of knowledge and information about the ocean floor to show their importance in the allocation of human uses and the potential of marine resources in aspects related to the Sustainable Blue Economy.

Ms. Martha Patricia Vides Casado and Ms. Milena Hernández-Ortiz, from the Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR), presented Colombia’s national policies starting from the 1990s until the approval in 2008 of the National Policy for the Ocean and Coastal Spaces. This document sets out the work to be done in terms of managing Colombia’s coastal areas, the need to incorporate land-use plans and, in a broader framework, cross-sectoral coordination as well as crosscutting issues such as science and technology.

In this context, many initiatives and products have resulted in a more comprehensive knowledge of the Colombian seafloor:

  • The Dutch project for Assistance in Climate Change Studies defined the vulnerability of biogeophysical and socio-economic systems to changes in sea level in the coastal zone and facilitated the implementation of adaptation measures;
  • The development of bathymetric charts for Colombia’s territorial waters as well as the country’s active participation in programs led by IOC-UNESCO for a better knowledge of the seafloor through GEBCO have served to develop additional products such as a map of continental, coastal and marine ecosystems, a tsunami hazard assessment and a system for the safety and protection of marine activities;
  • A benthic complexity index in the Pacific region was developed by the National Hydrocarbons Agency;
  • The participation of Colombian institutions in the SPINCAM project led by IOC-UNESCO in the Southeast Pacific (2009-2019) represented a milestone in the development of:
    • An information and data network in support of integrated coastal zone management;
    • Management indicators, which also included basic information on the seafloor in the entire Pacific region.

Dr. Gerardo Herbozo, from the Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation of the Peruvian Navy (DIHIDRONAV), made a presentation on the 200 Nautical Miles of the Mar de Grau, giving background on the national efforts to promote knowledge of the ocean.

Oil exploration in the 1960s gave rise to a long list of campaigns related both to the country’s economic interests and to international cruises with partners in the region (e.g., USA) or in Europe (e.g., Germany, France, Spain). However, it was not until the beginning of the 2000s that, through the leadership of DIHIDRONAV, the need to know the seafloor at its highest resolution was established.

The BAP Carrasco, a multidisciplinary oceanographic research vessel, provides detailed information about elements of the seafloor such as the expulsion of natural gas and associated morphological features, natural gas hydrates, landslides and submarine canyons, new rocky outcrops or deep-sea ecosystems, among many others, as a direct support to Peru’s National Maritime Policy 2019-2030.

In this sense, the work of DIHIDRONAV assists the following sectors in the planning of their own uses and development of knowledge:

  • Conservation: new habitats, deep-sea ecosystems, marine protected areas;
  • Biodiversity: deep-sea fisheries, chemosynthetic communities, hydrothermal vents;
  • Marine biotechnology: genetic material, biological patents, medicine;
  • Logistics: underwater cables, oil platforms, marine infrastructure;
  • Mining: polymetallic nodules, phosphate crusts, rare earths;
  • Energy: oil, natural gas, gas hydrates, wave, offshore wind.

In turn, these products allow DIHIDRONAV to advance the MSPglobal binational pilot case between Peru and Ecuador in the Gulf of Guayaquil.

Seafloor and MSP
Poll results

MSPglobal pilot project in the Southeast Pacific


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