Healthy Ecosystems & Habitats
The maintenance and restoration of healthy ecosystems is fundamental to life along Louisiana’s Gulf coast. Coastal development, overfishing, sea level rise, coastal subsidence, loss of barrier islands and other factors have resulted in water quality degradation and hypoxia, decline of fisheries, wetlands loss, proliferation of invasive species, reduced storm and surge protection and a host of other challenges. Louisiana’s invaluable coastal wetlands and forests have suffered most severely from the combined effects of man’s activities and nature’s whims. To restore and preserve the state’s coastal ecosystems, Louisiana Sea Grant promotes innovative research that increases understanding of ecosystem function and implementation of appropriate designs for restoring lost function.
Resilient Communities & Economies
Coastal communities provide vital economic, social and recreational opportunities for thousands of Louisianans, but population migration, especially since Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, have transformed the state’s coastal landscapes and intensified demand on finite coastal resources. These changes are placing tremendous pressure on coastal lands, water supplies and traditional ways of life. To accommodate more people and activity, and to balance growing demands on coastal resources, new policies, institutional capacities and management approaches to guide the preservation and use of coastal and ocean resources must be developed. Additionally, sea level rise, the increased number and intensity of coastal storms, the ongoing threat of oil spills and other natural and human hazards are putting more people and property at risk along Louisiana’s coast, with major implications for human safety and the economic and environmental health of coastal areas. It is essential that residents of coastal communities understand these risks and learn what they can do both to reduce their vulnerability and to respond quickly and effectively when destructive events occur. Louisiana Sea Grant uses its integrated research, training and technical assistance capabilities and its presence in coastal communities to play a major role in helping local citizens, decision-makers and industries plan for hazardous events and optimize their ability to respond to and rebuild after a disaster.
Sustainable Fisheries & Aquaculture
Louisiana has experienced a decline in many of its major fisheries, largely due to both competition from inexpensive imported seafood products and the high cost of fuel for fishing vessels, while seafood consumption nationwide has been simultaneously on the rise. Louisiana Sea Grant, through its research, extension and education activities, and its work with industry partners, has helped to stabilize and improve many sectors of the state’s fisheries industry. According to the NOAA Aquaculture Program, mariculture (aquaculture of saltwater species) is in its infancy in the U.S., amounting to just over $1 billion of a $70 billion worldwide industry. Mariculture creates important new opportunities to meet the increased demand for seafood, but a number of questions need to be addressed for its full potential to be realized. Seafood safety also is a growing concern as international trade increases and fish diseases and contamination of imports loom as larger problems. Louisiana Sea Grant plays key roles in advancing public understanding of the nature of these problems and opportunities.
Education & Workforce Development
An environmentally literate person is someone who has a fundamental understanding of the systems of the natural world, the relationships and interactions between the living and non-living environment and the ability to understand and utilize scientific evidence to make informed decisions regarding environmental issues. These issues involve uncertainty and require the consideration of economic, aesthetic, cultural and ethical values. The scientific, technical and communication skills needed to address the daunting environmental challenges confronting our nation are critical to developing a national workforce capacity. The Congressional report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, states that building a workforce literate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is crucial to maintaining America’s competitiveness in a rapidly changing global economy. These skills are also necessary to advance cutting-edge research and to promote enhanced resource management. In recognition of these needs, the America COMPETES Act mandates that NOAA build on its historic role in stimulating excellence in the advancement of ocean and atmospheric science and engineering disciplines. The Act also mandates NOAA provide opportunities and incentives for the pursuit of academic studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Workforce needs are reflected in the broader science and technology communities of both the private and public sectors with whom Louisiana Sea Grant works to fulfill its mission.