minds to prioritize Gulf issues
Regional research plan to determine hottest topics
September 11, 2006
Spread out along 1,631
miles of coastline, scientists studying the Gulf of Mexico are
interested in similar topics: seafood safety, fisheries, wetlands
restoration and the balance between conservation and development.
Yet many are unfamiliar or unaware of complimentary research being
conducted in neighboring states. Now, one effort will bring them
and other stakeholders together to plan and coordinate marine
research in the Gulf region.
and Implementing Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Regional Marine Research
and Information Needs begins this summer and will continue through
2011. By the end of 2008, a strategic research plan will be completed.
Plan implementation will begin in 2009.
With a $600,000 grant,
the four Sea Grant College programs along the Gulf (Texas, Louisiana,
Mississippi-Alabama and Florida) are spearheading this effort
to create the regional research and information plan. The majority
of the funding is coming from the National Sea Grant Office, a
federal government-university partnership program under the umbrella
of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The four Sea Grant
programs will work with state and federal agencies, non-profits
and private industry along the Gulf to prioritize research and
information needs and implement a strategic plan. They also will
consider ways to leverage their financial resources and in-house
assets to provide the most impact in the top-priority areas. Research
agencies along Mexico’s Gulf coast also are expected to
“A regional research
plan will help bring groups together to identify and prioritize
needs and build collaborative funding agreements,” said
LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.
was highlighted in the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy’s
report, and a GOM regional research plan is in line with the commission’s
recommendation that federal agencies dealing with ocean and coastal
issues improve coordination and use their funding to focus on
a Gulf-wide research agenda in support of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance,
led by the governors of five Gulf states, the Gulf of Mexico Research
Plan will enhance ongoing efforts such as the federal Ocean Research
Priority Plan,” Swann said. “The plan also will help
eliminate overlapping research efforts.”
The goal of a Gulf
research plan and implementation strategy will also directly address
and complement the Governors’ Action Plan. Through this
plan all five Gulf of Mexico governors have formally adopted the
objectives of improving water quality, conserving and restoring
wetlands, expanding environmental education, improving habitat
characterization and reducing nutrient inputs, all clearly benefiting
from coordination and direction of the Gulf’s many research
Jim Cato, director
of Florida Sea Grant, said he expects that hundreds of stakeholders
will be involved in determining the highest-priority issues in
the Gulf. Cato added the plan is important because of the high
level of concern for the economic and environmental sustainability
of the Gulf of Mexico.
“There are a
huge number of research issues in the Gulf of Mexico, and each
state has all different groups working on them,” Cato said.
“So, it will be good to organize the issues into designated
priorities against which everyone can use their limited resources
and collectively work on the most important problems.”
co-leader of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and director of the NOAA
Coastal Services Center, said the plan will focus on the same
priorities that were revealed under the Ocean Action Plan. It
will help stakeholders “look at the same ensemble of priorities
and customize them for the unique scientific and political challenges
in the region,” she said.
The Gulf regional
marine research plan was one of eight regional Sea Grant plan
projects that received funding this year.
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