The Northern Rivers region was represented at the world’s first regional planning conference for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, 2021-2030, held in Nouméa.

Oceanic Research Institute (ORI) CEO Earle de Blonville, and Director of Research Professor Jennifer Gidley, participated in the Pacific Community Workshop at the invitation of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). The IOC is based at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. ORI global headquarters is based in Ballina-Byron Ocean Gateway. 

ORI Founding Directors at the Pacific Community Centre in Nouméa.

The Workshop was held at the Pacific Community (SPC) headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia, gathering almost 100 participants from the South Pacific region.

It was organised in plenary sessions and themed workshops focusing on six main societal outcomes: a clean ocean, a healthy and resilient ocean, a predicted ocean, a safe ocean, a sustainably harvested and productive ocean, and a transparent and accessible ocean.

The ORI was the only independent Oceanic and climate research organisation participating from Australia, or anywhere else for that matter.

ORI’s founders, Professor Jennifer Gidley (Director of Research) and Earle de Blonville (Chief Executive Officer) participated over a four-day period in both the Pacific Community media workshop, funded by Australian Aid, and the main UN Decade Pacific workshop. Jennifer and Earle also held meetings with key leaders and officials over three additional days, pre and post the Workshop.

Earle & Jennifer (ORI) commit to ocean science for Blue Pacific.

IOC’s Executive Secretary – and UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General – Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, an Oceanographer and Climatologist, attended the Pacific Community Workshop in person to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

IOC Executive Director, Vladimir Ryabinin with ORI Co-Founders,

Earle de Blonville, FRGS and Dr. Jennifer Gidley in Nouméa.

ORI’s unique role in the UN Decade of Ocean Science, collaborating with Pacific nations while representing Australia, is expected to bring inward investment and sustainable employment opportunities to the Northern Rivers, and make this region Australia’s Pacific Hub for Ocean Research. This will help develop the new industry of Science Tourism in the Ballina-Byron Ocean Gateway.

ORI’s participation was made possible by a generous grant from local brewer Stone & Wood’s ‘inGRAINED Foundation’, established to develop sustainable capacity in the Northern Rivers. Thank you ‘inGrained’ Foundation’. We are most appreciative.

During this inspiring and informative week we met some outstanding Pacific women, men and youth leaders, including Taena, a traditional navigator from the Cook Islands, Peni, Oceans Analyst from the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and Tyler, representing the Pacific Youth Council. More stories to come as we work through all our notes and images from the week. But be assured, these Pacific Island leaders are decades ahead of their larger neighbours in terms of ocean and climate awareness and action.

We cannot deny that we enjoyed a delicious picnic on the beach at sunset on our last evening in Nouméa, while vowing to return again soon to the Blue Pacific.

Sunset at Baie des Citrons, Nouméa, New Caledonia.


Earle de Blonville