Canadian Survey of Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Great Lakes Observing Systems

Executive Summary

In the summer of 2010, a survey of the Canadian Ocean Observing Systems (OOS) and Observing System (OS) community was carried out by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Oceans Science and Technology Partnership (OSTP) with the financial support of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The survey contacted over 400 organizations and individuals and identified over 65 OOS activities and characterized their users, operations and maturity levels. The results were analyzed and the major issues and trends were discussed:

a) OOS Activities in Canada: OOS activities in Canada have a broad base throughout the country. More than 65 separate OOS activities are underway in every region of Canada bordered by our three oceans and the Great Lakes. The major players in the sector are government, universities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Most (83%) of OS programs have been underway for more than 3 years and have demonstrated operations. Most OOS operations are built upon partnerships with in-kind and financial support from sector stakeholders. The industry role in OOS is as both a user of information and a technology supplier..

b) OOS Regional Focuses: Most Canadian OS are directed to provide specific information needs for either local or regional areas or to meet specific information needs. OS are designed to meet specific objectives and the data and information provided to users are tailored to meet these requirements.

c) Sector Innovation: Canadian OS and industry suppliers are world-leading innovators in the OS sector. There has been significant funding ($100Ms) for OS technology demonstrations and research activities in Canada. This investment has yielded superior Canadian technology and experience in the sector. Canada also has a strategic advantage of access to space based observations. However, much of the proven OS innovation is not being effectively utilized in government operations.

d) OOS Sustainability: Outside of ongoing DFO's fisheries monitoring activities, the majority of OS are viewed as projects by many agencies and organizations. This project approach affects ongoing OOS sustainability through the resulting use and funding uncertainty for operations. Organizations which consider these OS as projects also do not commit to incorporating OS information and data into their regular and ongoing activities.

e) Sector Coordination: Canadian OS activities are typically generated locally or regionally by champion organizations. This has led to the sector developing in a fragmented manner. The upside to this decentralized approach is increased innovation and targeted delivery of specific functions. However even with this de facto approach there is limited effort to coordinate the sector knowledge and best practices such as data management and data and information exchange. This sector deficiency has likely resulted in loss of efficiencies in terms of resources and downstream valued added benefits to the OS users, suppliers, and the Canadian public.

f) Sector Growth: Given the planning (e.g. US Integrated Ocean Observing System program and the EU Ostend declaration) and ongoing activities in the OS sector worldwide (estimated at US$2.2B annually in 2011) it is clear that the sector will grow significantly.

In parallel with the OOS survey, a preliminary assessment of the environmental, economic, and social value of OOS was carried out. Highlights of this assessment show some positive benefits, the lack of an effective national strategy and governance structure to maximize benefits of investments, and need to measure and communicate the benefits of OOS.

A set of tasks for the Canadian OOS sector were developed to further study the survey data to examine respondent comments, examine how to maximize space based ocean observations for OOS, and to follow-up with survey respondents.

Finally a set of goals for the Canadian OOS sector were developed to initiate national coordination with DFO leadership, utilize innovation for efficiency and productivity, improve OOS sustainability, encourage integration of satellite observations, and utilize innovation for export.

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