Ocean hazards, such as storm surges, tsunamis or biohazards, can be devastating for the coasts and their communities. They can also have lasting and damaging effects on the coastal landscape, causing long-term coastal erosion, and on marine ecosystems.
IOC-UNESCO assists and advises policy makers and managers in the reduction of risks from tsunamis, harmful algal blooms, and other coastal hazards by focusing on implementing adaptation measures to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities, their infrastructure, and service-providing ecosystems.
With regards to tsunamis, the IOC Tsunami Programme aims at reducing the loss of lives and livelihoods that could be produced worldwide by tsunamis. The IOC-UNESCO Tsunami Unit supports its Member States in assessing tsunami risk, implementing Tsunami Early Warning Systems (EWS) and educating communities at risk about preparedness measures. After sixty years of experience coordinating the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS), IOC-UNESCO is now leading a global effort to establish tsunami warning systems as part of an overall multi-hazard disaster reduction strategy in order to provide adequate protection at local, national, regional, and global scales.
The IOC-UNESCO Tsunami Programme works closely with the Tsunami Service Providers (TSPs). The TSPs’ main mission is to protect life and property from tsunamis by a constant surveillance of tsunami and earthquake indicators in their Area of Responsibility. TSPs are funded and hosted by IOC-UNESCO Member States on a voluntary basis and subject to evaluation through Key Performance Indicators. They generate and disseminate tsunami forecast information products to regional networks of Tsunami Warning Focal Points (TWFPs). It is the ultimate responsibility of the National Tsunami Warning Centers (NTWCs) of each country, who may also be the TWFP, to evaluate the tsunami information and decide on appropriate national action. In order to ensure citizens are warned as quickly and effectively as possible of the tsunami risks, Member States have developed tsunami response procedures for issuing tsunami warning instructions to their public.
Another key initiative of the IOC Tsunami Programme is Tsunami Ready, which is an international community-based recognition pilot program developed by IOC-UNESCO. It is unfolding in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean Sea. The pilot programme enables communities to reach a high level of tsunami resilience by implementing preparedness measures including tsunami drills and exercises, evacuation routes, hazard mapping and signage. Tsunami Ready recognition is not a one-time achievement; it requires ongoing efforts in preparedness measures such as drills and exercises as well as public awareness.
When it comes to ocean biohazards, they fall into several categories, of which the most important is the production of toxins by some species of algae. When these organisms proliferate, they become known as harmful algal blooms (HABs) which can have profound effects on coastal ecosystems seafood safety, and human health. The IOC Harmful Algal Blooms Programme is designed to foster the effective management of, and scientific research on, Hs in order to understand their causes, predict their occurrences, and mitigate their effects. Concepts and national capacity for early warning systems on HABs are developed in close collaboration with Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).