Economic activities related to marine resources and biodiversity, include, but are not limited to, fisheries, aquaculture, and blue biotechnology. The sustainability of these activities is affected by the responsible use of marine resources and the conservation of its biodiversity.

According to the 2019 Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate marine and coastal ecosystems in the Atlantic have been affected by climate-driven environmental changes. This promoted shifts in the distribution and abundance of species, posing challenges to the economic activities and to ocean and fisheries governance in the Atlantic region.

The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, through the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water, states the advancement of scientific knowledge and marine technology as one of its targets for sustainable development, with key relevance for several Atlantic countries:

“Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries”.


The AIR Centre aims to provide scientific knowledge and tools to support the development of Atlantic’s marine resources while concomitantly mitigating environmental impacts and conserving marine biodiversity. The preservation of marine resources by the AIR Centre is focused on fisheries, aquaculture, marine spatial planning, and the use of Ocean Accounting systems.


Projects and programmes for the ethical use of living and non-living marine resources focused on new applications and innovations for sustainable economic development will consider:

  • Map biodiversity mapping and identify the genetic resources of the Atlantic Ocean with focus on Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), Ecosystem Services, Functions and Valuation.
  • Development of innovative tools for sustainable/ responsible fisheries, ocean observing systems, modelling, and apps for small scale fisheries.
  • Expansion in Aquaculture production capacity focused on increasing offshore activities, integration of technologies, operational practices for open ocean farming, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) approaches, and development of an international legal framework for the ocean and marine activities.
  • Significant economic potential expected in the ‘Blue Biotechnology’, marine biomedicine, and co-culture of low-trophic species and marine biofuels to promote carbon sequestration and storage).
  • Study on the impact of the Deep Sea Mineral Resources; industry platforms for non-commercial marine data and increase of business-academic collaboration.


The health of the oceans is a matter of global concern. The accumulation of plastic debris in the oceans is a notorious challenge, among other noticeable risks, like ocean warming and acidification.

Globally, 5 to 13 Mtonnes of plastics end up in the oceans every year.

It is estimated that more than 150 Mtonnes of plastic have accumulated in the world’s oceans and 99% of sea birds will have eaten plastic by 2050. Plastic debris can be washed up on land or transported by marine currents, gradually degrading into mesoplastics (2.5 cm – 5 mm) and then into microplastics (< 5 mm). Microplastics constitute a global problem since they:

  • Are globally distributed and have been detected in all levels of the marine environment
  • May transport non-indigenous marine species, which threaten marine biodiversity and the food chain.
  • Accumulate toxic substances and may act as a vector of toxic pollutants in the food chain, with potentially severe health implications.

If the current trends are not reversed and mitigated, we could end up having more plastic than fish in our ocean by 2050. Therefore, both the United Nations and European Union identify ocean contamination by plastics and microplastics as a major and global concern. Different strategies were identified as next steps:

  • Reduction of plastics use by promoting reuse and light-weighting;
  • Use of biodegradable plastics in disposable applications;
  • Enhanced capture at wastewater treatment stations.

The development of data platforms for monitoring marine litter and informing action could be of great interest to better understand and mitigate plastic pollution. The large volume of data generated from different technologies for monitoring ocean pollution require transformation into actionable knowledge, as supported by numerical models, algorithms, remote sensing and visualization tools.


The AIR Centre aims to address this global issue, focusing on a drastic reduction of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean. The AIR Centre proposes the Clean and Healthy Atlantic 2030 Mission, with the following targets:

  • Mapping the sources, distribution and fate of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean;
  • Reduce in 2/3, until 2030, the actual number of plastic residues in the Atlantic Ocean;
  • Reduce in 90%, until 2030, the disposal of plastics to the Atlantic Ocean


The Clean and Healthy Atlantic 2030 Mission goals will be achieved through:

  • Development of new standardized technologies and methodologies for sampling, quantifying, monitoring and identifying microplastics in the ocean and coastal areas. These technologies include satellite monitoring, data science, and numerical modelling to quantify microplastics in the ocean and coastal areas;
  • Improved technologies for collecting, recycling and elimination of those materials and other wastes;
    Proposing concerted legal, behaviour and technological actions concerning plastic disposal in the Atlantic countries.
  • Have an open data cube available to support the development of local, regional and national policies, and to create a sustainable framework for pollution reduction and to actively mobilize all interested stakeholders.
  • Using an Open Science approach


Earth observation is the gathering of information about planet Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems. It involves monitoring and assessing the status of, and changes in, the natural and man-made environment. According to the GEO Strategic Plan.

“Earth observations from diverse sources, including satellite, airborne, in-situ platforms, and citizen observatories, when integrated together, provide powerful tools for understanding the past and present conditions of Earth systems, as well as the interplay between them.”

Earth observation benefits from the advancement of technology for observation and data integration from space, aerial and in situ observation systems, micro and nano satellites, underwater robotics & autonomous vehicles, new sensors, and modeling.

Earth Observations from deep sea to near space produce data and knowledge in the ocean relevant to accomplishing policymaking in alignment with the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Managing all this data requires a concerted, detailed approach that would support the measurement of ocean-related issues implied in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 – Life Below Water and interconnected goals.

An ocean accounting approach, that is, a framework for standardized data of national, regional, and global importance, so that it can be integrated for a comprehensive view of ocean-wide and coastal issues, could strengthen the capacity of member states to address SDG 14. Given that SDG is key for the development of the Atlantic Region, an ocean accounting approach is desirable.


The AIR Centre positions itself to generate positive social impact outcomes of Earth Observation to the Atlantic Ocean communities. Value creation is based on investment in human capital development and establishing an Ocean Accounting framework to systematically measure economic/socio-economic value and return on investment, supported by integrative data science methods.


The AIR Centre will work together with national and international Earth Observation providers and stakeholders in the Atlantic region to identify gaps and opportunities for:

  • Deploying new satellite constellations (e.g. Cubesats & micro-launchers) to offer new low-cost & multi-lateral value & capabilities;
  • Maximising the value of Copernicus constellations through new network derived science products, calibration & validation;
  • Developing & exploiting innovative marine robotics, autonomous sensing technologies & applications;
    Global and regional assimilative, predictive ocean models providing data integration, forecasting and a wide range of high value applications;
  • Big Data integration & fostering cutting-edge data science: artificial intelligence, deep learning, etc


“We will only be able to keep global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels if we effect unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society, including energy, land and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure as well as industry. The ambitious climate policies and emissions reductions required to deliver the Paris Agreement will also protect the ocean and cryosphere–and ultimately sustain all life on Earth”
Debra Roberts, IPCC, September 2019

According to the 2019 Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is causing an accelerated rise of sea levels, at 3.6 mm per year, and the increase of extreme sea level events. Indeed, to date, the ocean has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat and 20-30% of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. This causes ocean warming and acidification, resulting in the depletion of oxygen and changes nutrient dynamics. As a result, the distribution and abundance of marine life in coastal areas are changing, thereby posting health and food security threats to coastal communities that rely on marine socio-economic activities.

If greenhouse gas emissions can be strongly reduced, ecosystems can be protected and restored, and if natural resources can be carefully managed, marine and coastal areas might be resilient to future changes.


The AIR Centre aims at playing an important role in lessening negative impacts of anthropogenic climate change through the sharing of knowledge, and promoting innovation and building capacity, especially in low-income countries. In addition, our organization is well-positioned to work in collaboration with other international organizations towards large-scale mitigation measures of climate change.


The key areas of intervention of the AIR Centre for mitigation of climate change are:

  • Increased use of Earth Observations (EO) and low-cost in situ measurements for monitoring Anthropogenic Climate Change effects on short and longer timescales
  • Development of open-source Risk Management and Assessment tools for decision-makers
  • Limiting potential damage from increasing natural hazards in coastal cities, towns and small island states (SIS)
  • Fostering Sustainable Urban Development through more efficient water & energy resources and buildings, transforming urban environments into decarbonized and climate-resilient cities;
  • Promoting Circular Economies, transforming cities & territories into carbon-neutral economies;
  • Supporting Sustainable Rural Development, in connection with agriculture, food, water, forestry and land use;

Ensuring Sustainable Marine & Ocean Development, in the areas of fishery resources, maritime transport, and resilience to climate risks;


Affordable and clean energy for everyone is the Goal # 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One of its targets is of extreme relevance to countries in the Atlantic region:

“By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support”


The AIR Centre aims at promoting a global transition towards a new, sustainable energy system in the Atlantic area. Ultimately, this goal is connected to technology development for new transmission and storage infrastructures and ensuring access to sustainable energy in low-income countries.


The following topics are the cornerstone of the Scientific Agenda of the AIR Centre associated with sustainable energy systems in the Atlantic:

  • Microgrids design, implementation and management in islands and isolated areas, including energy storage
  • To increase substantially the share of Marine Renewable Energy in the large-scale generation system, namely offshore renewables.
  • Tackling challenges related to transmission grid infrastructure and storage issues. A marine “Supergrid” as the backbone for Marine Renewable development
  • Lifetime extension of existing platforms for multi-purpose space use


The overall objective of Data Science is to take advantage of the present flood and diversification of data to develop research lines that will shorten the gap between collected and useful data, as well as offer easy-to-use modelling solutions to users, allowing them to extract crucial knowledge from such data.

Data Science has a growing importance in the world and is critical to many areas of human activity. On the one hand, the huge amounts of collected data and the ubiquity of devices with sensors and/or processing power offer opportunities and challenges to scientists and engineers. On the other hand, rising demand of complex models for objective decision support is spreading in industry, energy, health, science, media, agriculture, e-government and e-learning, reinforcing the need for different approaches to model and understand data.

Data Science is also interesting for improved decision-making in fields such as space, climate, and oceans, due to the high amounts of data generated and collected from technologies in these domains, and due to the need for accurate predictive modelling supporting risk mitigation.


The AIR Centre aims at developing solutions based on Data Science to support priority actions in the Atlantic Ocean, in connection with the five other lines of action.


Providing resources for data science applications, such as:

  • Monitoring, analysis, modelling and management of marine ecosystems, migration patterns, water quality, aquaculture production, and establishment of smart thresholds for sustainable fisheries;
  • Developing tools for tracking and predicting the dispersal of marine pollutants, including real-time monitoring and management of water supplies, and recognition of patterns of transportations;
  • Processing large volumes of data from Earth Observation systems with dedicated infrastructures for data collection, curation, and analysis;
  • Fostering more accurate weather prediction and climate modelling systems, with special emphasis on ocean-related phenomena;
  • Systematic collection and modelling of data at the ocean-scale and correlation with biodiversity indicators;
  • Developing predictive and analytic models for control and mitigation of negative effects of invasive species in vital ecosystems;
  • Increasing performance, availability and reliability of renewable offshore energies through data-driven condition monitoring, decision-support systems for maintenance, and self-learning and distributed algorithms;

The AIR_DataNET cross-cutting activity is a core application of the data science line of action.