Life below water, WUR Sustainable development goal

14. Life in seas and oceans

The (inter)national marine policy strives to promote sustainable use of oceans and coastal regions. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) offers national and international governments insight into the consequences of current ocean policy has on ecosystems and biodiversity.

Wageningen Marine Research is a specialised institute that focusses on more sustainable, prudent management and use and conservation of the natural resources in the sea, sweetwater and coastal areas. However, other WUR departments are also involved in SDG 14, both at a national and international level, from polar regions to tropical coral reefs.

Research in the Antarctic region

In the Antarctic area, WUR carries out research as part of its Statutory Research Tasks commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. This task stems from the Netherlands consultative membership of the Antarctic Treaty: the international agreement for the shared governance of the Antarctic continent and Southern Oceans. WUR offers additional support to the Netherlands Polar Programme of the Dutch Research Council and host countries providing logistical support in cooperative projects.

Research in the Arctic region

With the decline in polar ice in the Arctic region, activities such as shipping, oil and gas mining, fisheries and tourism are expected to increase. WUR researches the impact of these activities. This is needed to develop mitigating measures and provide NGOs, industry and governments with substantiated advice on sustainable development of the Arctic region. Thus, WUR participates in the MOSAiC expedition, which strives to gain further insight into global climate change.

Research on marine life in the tropics

Our research also focusses on tropical marine life. One of our projects takes place near the Saba Bank, the Netherlands’ largest national park. Research on the island of Bonaire shows that what happens on the island, influences the conditions of marine life in no small extent, as is illustrated in the infographic below.

Deterioration of Bonaire coral reef threatens island economy

Globally, coral reefs are under threat. WUR carries out a base inventory to map the entire Bonaire coral reef. A different project aims to restore reefs with the help of small shoots. The influence of sunburn products on the reefs is also studied.

Research on marine life in the Netherlands

Plenty of research on marine life in seas and oceans is conducted in the Netherlands as well. Wageningen research on and around the Wadden Sea is extensive. It varies from dykes, muscle banks and seals, to birds, litter and salt marshes. For example, the effects of shrimp fishing on soil life in the Wadden Sea is studied, we try to discover why porpoises get beached and monitor the seal population.

Food contribution from seas and oceans

In addition to all this nature research, we also investigate what seas and oceans (may) contribute to our food supply. Fisheries is an important factor. WUR also conducts Statutory Research Tasks for the fisheries sector. And fisheries management studies are not limited to the North Sea, we also study tuna fishery in Asia, for example.

Seaweed cultivation

Fisheries are important, but seas and oceans can also be used for other purposes, such as the cultivation of seaweed. The growing world population demands an increase in food production. But the amount of land and water available for farming is decreasing. Thus, Wageningen and Indonesian scientists and businesses conduct collaborative research into the possibilities of seaweed farming. Seaweed needs only sunlight to flourish. It purifies seawater and can be cultivated sustainably. Besides, it is a type of superfood; easy to process into healthy and tasty foods for humans and animals.