A Committee of the Assembly of Sea Grant Extension Program Leaders
Over the next five years, Sea Grant will concentrate effort in four areas: healthy coastal ecosystems; sustainable coastal development; a safe and sustainable seafood supply; and hazard resilience in coastal communities. These four interrelated focus areas emerged from the strategic planning process as areas of critical importance to the health and vitality of the nation’s coastal resources and communities. They respond to issues of major importance to NOAA, are consistent with the work of the NOAA coastal program integration effort, and are topical areas in which Sea Grant has made substantial contributions in the past and is positioned to make significant contributions in the future. In each of the four focus areas, Sea Grant has identified goals to pursue and strategies designed to take advantage of its strengths in integrated research, outreach, and education, and its established presence in coastal communities. Understanding relationships and synergies across focus areas is vital to achieving the focus area goals. Sea Grant is one of many partners working to address these complex and interrelated issues. Understanding how activities in one area can support and complement other activities, and using partnerships to accomplish shared goals, are strategies inherent to Sea Grant, and will be central to achieving the goals outlined in this plan.
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 the nation’s coasts, 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 to reduce their vulnerability and respond quickly and effectively when events occur. Sea Grant will use 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 the ability of their communities to respond and rebuild.
Coastal communities in America provide vital economic, social, and recreational opportunities for millions of Americans, but decades of population migration have transformed our coastal landscapes and intensified demand on finite coastal resources. The increase in population has resulted in new housing developments and recreation facilities, a new generation of energy development activities, port expansions, and other business activities. 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, we must develop new policies, institutional capacities, and management approaches to guide the preservation and use of coastal, ocean and Great Lakes resources. Sea Grant will engage a diverse and growing coastal population in applying the best available scientific knowledge, and use its extension and education capabilities to support the development of healthy coastal communities that are economically and socially inclusive, are supported by diverse and vibrant economies, and function within the carrying capacity of their ecosystems.
Healthy coastal ecosystems are the foundation for life along the coast. However, increasingly rapid coastal development, global overfishing, and other human activities are leading to water quality degradation, decline of fisheries, wetlands loss, proliferation of invasive species, and a host of other challenges that need to be understood in order to restore and maintain these ecosystems. Ecosystem functioning does not respect traditional political boundaries, and responsible management of ecosystems requires new kinds of thinking and actions. Sea Grant is a leader in regional approaches to understanding and maintaining healthy ecosystems, with planning efforts underway across the country to identify information gaps, set research priorities, and coordinate information and technology transfer to those who need it. Sea Grant has fostered efforts to address widespread problems such as invasive species that are found in geographically-dispersed areas, and has hired staff, shared among several state programs, to tackle these problems. Sea Grant’s regional consortia, nationwide networks, and international contacts are particularly well-suited to helping the nation address ecosystem health at the appropriate local, state, regional, national and global levels.