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REV Ocean CEO says it’s time for an ocean data revolution

It’s a fortunate few who realize what they were born to do at an early age. For Nina Jensen, her childhood love of life below the surface grew into a desire to protect it, which turned out to be her life’s work.

The health of our ocean is under threat

This is no longer up for debate. Human activities are at the root of most of the damage, which has led to rising sea levels, diminishing marine species and plastic-addled animals struggling to survive in polluted waters. Nina Jensen, CEO of REV Ocean, says that protecting ocean life is “a 24/7 job”, a mission to which she has dedicated most of her life.

There was only one place for Jensen to begin when it came to her environmental aspirations: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It represented the pinnacle of her ambition, ever since age seven when, she recalls, she was indoctrinated in WWF’s Panda Club. Her passion for the ocean grew along with her, leading her to a marine biology degree and later, a 15- year career in WWF, where she eventually served as Secretary-General of WWF Norway. It was a place, she says, that she never intended on leaving.

“The thought of not working for the WWF used to make me panic.” But underneath her desire to stay was an even stronger drive to save life in the ocean. Jensen felt that time was running out and that more players needed to join forces to get results.

From WWF to REV Ocean’s mission to make the ocean healthy again

During her time in WWF, she helped to develop the Aker-backed REV Ocean, along with Kjell Inge Røkke (in 2017). Eventually, she made the tough decision to leave WWF to lead this relatively new, not-for-profit organization.

“At the end of the day, to solve ocean challenges, you can’t do that with environmental enthusiasm and marine biology alone. You need capital and industry players to join the battle.” It’s a battle that Jensen and REV Ocean are currently fighting on three fronts: plastic pollution, climate change and unsustainable fishing. And the greatest tool to tackle these threats to ocean health, she says, is data.

No stranger to data, WWF depended on it to drive ocean management

In WWF, the wide variety of data sources were used and combined to conduct analysis of various ocean areas and assess human activity and impact. This data was shared with governments and decision-makers, serving as guidance to improve their ocean management practices.

It was a good starting point but according to Jensen, “we need to ensure that all the data that exists on the ocean is combined and put to good use. It’s time for an ocean data revolution.”

An ocean data revolution

The revolution of which Jensen speaks has already begun. Since the inception of REV Ocean, several initiatives have launched, including the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Ocean (C41R Ocean), a “home for ideas and digital tools to disrupt how ocean data and technology is used”. At the core of this is the Ocean Data Platform, a powerful solution for collecting, navigating, and contextualizing ocean data from multiple, diverse sources.

This platform, according to Jensen, will enable companies to work more effectively and efficiently to monitor their environmental footprint and then work to reduce it.

“The Ocean Data Platform has grown into a team of 10 in less than a year. It is powered by Cognite Data Fusion, which allows the platform to both liberate and contextualize ocean data so that it can be used for better decision-making and more sustainable ocean governance.” 

The C4IR Ocean and Ocean Data Platform are now leading the Ocean Data Action Coalition for the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which will play an important role in security sustainable management for 100% of national waters.

The future depends on making data do more for our ocean

Saving the ocean is not a task for one company alone

REV Ocean knows that the only way to realize their vision and create change is through partnerships. They work with partners from academia, the private sector, and the government, to find and implement more sustainable solutions.

“We combine companies, capabilities, skills and ways of thinking and magic happens,” adds Jensen.

A self-described eternal optimist, Jensen is a strong believer that even the most difficult situations can be turned around. She experienced big wins during her time at WWF. Together, they reduced illegal cod fishing in the Barents Sea by 80%, influenced the Norwegian pension fund to divest from coal, secured Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for 75% of Norwegian fisheries, protected critical marine habitats, and even witnessed the return of tuna to the Norwegian coast after a half-century absence.

“We are now at a point in time when capital and the dominant industry players are all moving in a greener direction,” says Jensen. “The motivation is there, along with the technology. Big things are happening.”

The future depends on it

Making the ocean healthy again is not a short-term goal, Jensen acknowledges. To fulfill this mission, a long-term perspective is required. Many businesses rely on the ocean for their existence, and if it is polluted and full of plastic, it can be difficult to derive any profit from it.

By putting data and technology to good use, and collaborating across the ocean industries, we are able to innovate and create the solutions necessary to sustain the ocean-related industries and, more importantly, save ocean life.”

For Jensen, this mission is personal, and forty-some years in the making. It’s about using data to save the place that she loves most, to ensure that the ocean can go on inspiring and sustaining generations to come.

All images courtesy of Nina Jensen and REV Ocean.

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